Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

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The Great Lakes region and surrounding States and Provinces. Source: [1]

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) is a federal program that was founded in 2010. This program funds projects that aim to protect and restore the five Great Lakes: Erie, Huron, Michigan, Ontario, and Superior. This Initiative represents true collaboration by working with multiple federal agencies to accomplish its objectives. Despite the success of the GLRI since it’s induction, the program faces severe budget cuts for the coming fiscal years.


The Great Lakes are a very important region to the surrounding states, and the entirety of the United States. "The Great Lakes are the largest surface freshwater system on Earth. Only the polar ice caps contain more fresh water,".[1] The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was created to accelerate efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world.[2] The GLRI focuses it's efforts by tackling several main areas of concern.

Focus Areas

  1. Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern: This includes cleaning up areas of pollution and preventing further pollution within the Great Lakes.
  2. Invasive Species: This includes controlling the spread of invasive species that have already inhabited the Great Lakes and creating a plan to stop invasive species before they enter the Great Lakes ecosystem.
  3. Non-point Source Pollution Impacts on Nearshore Health: This section attacks the coastline of the Great Lakes and aims to solve issues including pollution, runoff, and other wastes that can damage the water on the coast and the beaches.
  4. Habitats and Species: This section focuses on the many habitats and species found in the Great Lakes region. Projects in this focus area may include restoring habitats, protecting current habitats and species and researching the habitats and species to gain a better understanding.
  5. Foundations for Future Restoration Actions: The final focus area refers to ongoing assessments of the area. Observations on current projects, and current or possibly new factors that could jeopardize the region are taken here to ensure continued progress in the Great Lakes.


  • The GLRI focuses its attention on issues involving the 5 focus areas stated above. The Initiative works with several other federal agencies along with other organizations to implement projects in different areas. As of February of 2017, 15 federal agencies were involved in a total of 3455 projects. The agencies are as followed: Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, DOT Federal Highway Administration, DOT Maritime Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA Forest Service, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.[3]
  • Projects are assessed based on several levels of criteria. The projects need to be ready to be implemented, display a clear connection to protection and restoration of the Great Lakes, the project must account for climate change and any impacts the project may have on the climate, and be clear on the amount of man power needed to see the project through. [4] The EPA can request or deny applications for various projects based on if they meet the desired criteria, or the amount of funding the government has allotted for these types of projects. Non-federal governmental entities, nonprofit organizations, state agencies, local governments, interstate agencies, federally-recognized tribes, college and universities are all eligible to apply for funding for various projects. [5] Once a proposal is submitted it is reviewed and evaluated on a point system. This includes Project design, outputs and outcomes, collaboration and plans, community-based focus and environmental justice impacts, programmatic capability and past performance, education and outreach, and budget. [6] From this point, awards are distributed to qualifying projects.

Past Projects

As previously stated, the GLRI has been responsible for funding thousands of projects since 2010 across the eight states that border the Great Lakes. In 2011, over 3.5 million dollars was awarded for projects in Wisconsin. Some of those projects included work with storm-water management, reducing invasive plant species, red swamp crayfish prevention, implemented mitigation strategies at Wisconsin beaches, watershed protection, improving water quality, and more.[7] The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is actively helping farm and landowners to start actions that can recover or save resources in locally identified watersheds.[8] For more examples of past projects conducted by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative over the past 7 years, visit the GLRI cite [2] for an interactive map of projects throughout the eight surrounding states.

Future Projects

  • The Original Action Plan put forth by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that came out in 2010 focused on the key areas we previously outlined. Action Plan 2 came out in 2014 and will continue till 2019. Action Plan 2 adds Science-Based Adaptive Management the will be used to prioritize ecosystem problems to be targeted with GLRI resources. [9] Action Plan 2 also plans to continue the work done under the first Action Plan, and to remove certain areas of concern from pre-existing lists.
  • In Wisconsin, farmers are working with agencies to help improve soil health. One example is a farmer in Black Creek, Wisconsin who has switched most of his land to no-till and cover crops. [10] This will reduce phosphorus and sediment from contaminating the water in Lake Michigan. Projects like this are being started in Wisconsin and the remaining 7 states that depend on the Great Lakes.
  • After 2019, the amount of projects that are going to be implanted will depend of funding that is currently being debated in Congress.


The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funded by the federal government. Grants can be distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency based on the criteria mentioned above. The first year, 2010 had the highest allowance of funds at $475,000,000. Since the fiscal year of 2014, the Government has created a budget of $300,000,00 dollars to be dispersed between the eight states bordering the Great Lakes.[11] Currently, the GLRI is facing budget cuts under the most recent administration, and funding for the program is being fought for in Congress.

Budget Cuts

President Trump's budget for 2018 did not include the $300 million for GLRI projects. The budget abolished all funding for the GLRI. Fortunately, Congress is fighting this; as millions of people depend on the Great Lakes for clean water, tourism, and food. [12] President Trump's rationale was to leave the budget for the states to decide over. Even though the Great Lakes are only bordered by 8 out of the 50 states, the lakes remain an important ecosystem and source of water for all Americans. If the funding is left to the States, funding would decrease and states like Michigan who are bordered by three lakes, would struggle to give the lakes the attention they deserve. [13]

Current Legislation

As of mid-October, the 2018 budget passed in the Senate with a vote of 51-49[14], with the $300 million budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative included in the budget. For now the GLRI remains funded by the federal government. However, it is likely to continue to face adversity, especially under the current administration.


  1. Great Lakes Facts and Figures, United States Environmental Protection Agency. Last modified September 12, 2017, Accessed November 30. 2017.
  2. Great Lakes Restoration. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Accessed November 30, 2017.
  3. GLRI Project, Great Lakes Restoration. Accessed December 5, 2017.
  4. U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: 2016 Request for Applications, Environmental Protection Agency, November 9, 2017, Accessed December 5, 2016, p. 5,
  5. U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: 2016 Request for Applications, Environmental Protection Agency, November 9, 2016, Accessed December 5, 2017, p. 27,
  6. U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: 2016 Request for Applications, Environmental Protection Agency, November 9, 2017, Accessed December 5, 2016, p. 49-54,
  7. Recent GLRI-Funded Projects in Wisconsin, Wisconsin DNR, July 6, 2017, Accessed December 8, 2017,
  8. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in Wisconsin, Natural Resources Conservation Service Wisconsin, Accessed December 8, 2017,
  9. Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Action Plan II, Great Lakes Restoration, Accessed December 11, 2017,
  10. Switching to No-Till, Cover Crops in Effort to Improve Watershed, No-Till Farmer, November 18, 2017, Accessed December 9, 2017,
  11. GLRI 2016 Report to Congress and the President: Fiscal Year 2016, Great Lakes Restoration, Accessed December 10, 2017,
  12. ‘’Trump’s Budget Plan Proposes Cut To Great Lakes Restoration Projects’’, National Public Radio, July 10, 2017, Accessed December 10, 2017,
  13. ’’Restore Great Lakes Funding: Our View’’, Green Bay Press-Gazette, April 14, 2017, Accessed December 10, 2017,
  14. ’’Breaking down the fiscal 2018 budget passed by Senate’’, ABC News, October 20, 2017, Accessed December 10, 2017,

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