Left to right: James Tierney, chair of the Great Lakes Commission; Lana Pollack, chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission; Jeff Skelding, director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition; and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson

Former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson discusses GLRI priorities at Great Lakes Week 2011. Joining her (from left to right) are: James Tierney, chair of the Great Lakes Commission; Lana Pollack, chair of the U.S. Section of the International Joint Commission; and Jeff Skelding, director of the Healing Our Waters Coalition (Click to enlarge)


The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. In 2010, a task force of 16 federal agencies and many of the region's governors released the GLRI Action Plan FY2010-FY2014 (PDF) covering five urgent issues called "focus areas":

  • Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern;
  • Combating invasive species;
  • Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off;
  • Restoring wetlands and other habitats; and
  • Tracking progress, education and working with strategic partners.

As part of Great Lakes Week, held in Detroit in October 2011, the U.S. EPA Administrator, who chairs the federal Interagency Task Force, announced three key priorities within the focus areas:

Accelerating the cleanup of Areas of Concern

GLRI is focusing on nine priority areas of concern through FY14. (Click to enlarge)

As part of the GLRI Action Plan, the Task Force committed to work with states and other partners to ensure that all management actions necessary for delisting five Areas of Concern would take place by the end of FY2014. Knowing that AOC cleanups are complex and expensive, the Task Force announced an expedited schedule for nine AOCs within the FY2013-14 timeframe:

Fiscal Year 2012

  • Ashtabula River, Ohio
  • River Raisin, Michigan
  • Sheboygan River, Wisconsin
  • White Lake, Michigan

Fiscal Years 2013-2014

  • Deer Lake, Michigan
  • Manistique River, Michigan
  • St. Clair River, Michigan
  • St. Marys River, Michigan
  • Waukegan Harbor, Illinois

Reducing harmful algae in three priority watersheds

GLRI will focus on reducing nutrients in three impaired watersheds: Lower Fox River, Saginaw River and Maumee River. (Click to enlarge)

Scientists have traced high levels of harmful algae that chokes aquatic life, creates "dead zones" devoid of oxygen in the Lakes, harms coastal economies and threatens human health back largely to phosphorus runoff. While most of the Great Lakes are cold and deep, thereby providing a natural buffer against the effects of harmful algae, warmer and shallower embayments may be hit harder. The Task Force announced special efforts to protect three such "priority watersheds" from phosphorus runoff:

  • Lower Fox River, Wisconsin
  • Saginaw River, Michigan
  • Maumee River, Ohio

Preventing the introduction of new invasive species

GLRI is focusing on preventing invasive species, like Asian carp, from entering the Great Lakes. (Click to enlarge)

The GLRI continues to provide resources and coordination, often in coordination with efforts such as those of the Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee. To advance the Administration's "zero tolerance policy" toward invasive species, the Task Force announced continued efforts to prevent the establishment of self-sustaining population of Asian carp and other species that threaten the delicate food web of the largest freshwater system on earth.