The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition was formed in 2004 with the same goal we have today—to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the federal funding needed to implement it. In 2004 there was no widely agreed upon plan to restore the Great Lakes, and there certainly was not a dedicated source of funding to address the many problems the lakes faced. By 2005 a diverse group of Great Lakes advocates had gathered together and produced the “Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes.” Now the Coalition had a restoration plan to work from, but no secure source of funding to implement the plan. Read more about the history of this collaboration.
Just four years later, President Obama came into office and promised to create the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal source of funding dedicated to restoring the Great Lakes. Now, in 2015, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has invested more than $1.9 billion in the eight-state region and has completed or is working on over 2,500 restoration projects. Visit the GLRI’s website.
While the Coalition now has both a Great Lakes restoration plan to work from and a source of federal funding, we still have more work to do. Read our policy page. New threats keep arising for the lakes, such as invasive species from untreated ballast water or Asian carp coming up the Chicago Area Waterway System. The loss of wetlands to filter water before it reaches the lake, the history of toxic pollution still being cleaned up, and the yearly cycle of algal blooms are all continuing threats. And funding to stop these problems is never assured. The GLRI is not an authorized federal program, meaning its very presence in the federal budget is not certain, nor is the annual funding amount. The Coalition’s goal remains: to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the federal funding needed to implement it.