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September 24th 2014

Coalition Supports New Great Lakes Action Plan

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is supporting a new Great Lakes action plan that will guide federal restoration efforts for the next five years. The plan, released today by the U.S. EPA at a meeting of Great Lakes mayors in Chicago, will prioritize federal Great Lakes investments to restore fish and wildlife habitat, clean up toxic pollution, combat invasive species like Asian carp, and prevent farm and urban runoff that causes algal blooms.

“This plan will keep Great Lakes restoration efforts on track,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “The results we’ve seen over the first five years are a testament to a solid original strategy and the resources to implement it. We’re encouraged that the plan unveiled today will help us continue to make progress that improves the health of the lakes and communities which rely on them.” More >

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September 15th 2014

Putting the Rapids Back in Grand Rapids

As HOW Conference attendees walked through downtown Grand Rapids last week, a question might have played on their minds: where are all the rapids?

“When I first moved here from New Mexico,” remembers Chris Muller of Grand Rapids Whitewater, “I kept thinking: ‘The name doesn’t really seem to fit. Why do we call it Grand Rapids if there are none?’”

Running through the heart of downtown Grand Rapids, the Grand River did once exhibit impressive whitewater conditions that gave the city its name. As a community and industry developed around the river, however, they altered the river to suit their needs. Water levels were raised and lowered with dams, and the rocks lining the riverbed were removed. The iconic rapids disappeared, and the river has never been the same.

Several Grand Rapids residents have come together under a shared vision of returning rapids to the Grand River and reconnecting residents to the river and their shared history. Proponents acknowledge that this task is complicated and will take time, but will ultimately lead to numerous benefits for the city, including increased economic development, expanded recreational opportunities, and improved fish and wildlife habitat. As Muller explains: “We have a river; why can’t it be an awesome river?” More >

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September 10th 2014

Michigan Community Tackles Stormwater Issues in Their Watershed

The Plaster Creek watershed contains a variety of interests and communities reliant on the creek. Farms, industry, and higher-income communities dominate the upper reaches of the watershed, while downstream neighborhoods tend to be lower-income, minority communities. Stormwater carries excessive animal waste, sewage contamination, fertilizer, sediments, and other pollutants into the river, leading to severe bacterial contamination. This has a disproportionate impact on the low-income minority communities living downstream. Thanks to a program run through Calvin College, however, this diverse community is coming together to address these stormwater and environmental justice issues through green infrastructure restoration, scientific and social research, and education. Read more here.

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September 9th 2014

Great Lakes Activists Gather in Grand Rapids, Mich., to Celebrate 10 Years of Restoration Success

Conference to pay tribute to businessman, philanthropist and Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition founder Peter Wege

GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. (Sept. 9, 2014) – With federal Great Lakes restoration efforts paying off in communities across the region, more than 350 Great Lakes advocates are gathering today in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the 10th annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference, which runs through Thursday.

Follow the proceedings, including daily coverage by Detroit Public Television at or

“We’re excited to be in Grand Rapids, which hosted the first Great Lakes restoration conference 10 years ago,” said Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We’re thrilled at the progress we’ve seen in those years, and are well aware that we’ve got more work to do. The good news is that federal restoration efforts are helping the environment and economy in Grand Rapids and communities around the region. Our message is simple: ‘Let’s keep Great Lakes restoration efforts on track’.”

Honoring Peter Wege

The conference will pay special tribute to Peter Wege, the Grand Rapids businessman, philanthropist and Great Lakes advocate, who founded the Coalition 10 years ago. Mr. Wege passed away earlier this year and the conference features a tribute lunch today to honor his leadership and support over his lifetime.

“Peter Wege was a wonderful man whose vision, passion, commitment and generosity was instrumental in advancing Great Lakes restoration efforts,” said Ambs. “We look forward to honoring and celebrating his life and carrying on the work to restore the health of the Lakes. Millions of people depend on these magnificent Lakes for their drinking water, jobs, and quality of life.” More >

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September 5th 2014

Grand Rapids Area Restoration Success Stories Release Prior to 10th Annual Restoration Conference

One of the brownfield sites in May 2013, just as the poplars are being put in the ground. Photo courtesy of the Delta Institute.

One of the brownfield sites in May 2013, just as the poplars are being put in the ground. Photo courtesy of the Delta Institute.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference is happening next week—September 9-11—in Grand Rapids, Mich. The conference is a place for more than 300 Great Lakes advocates and stakeholders, including representatives of business, industry, academia and city, state and federal agencies to gather to celebrate the accomplishments of and discuss the threats facing the Great Lakes. Prior to the conference, we have gathered success stories from the greater Grand Rapids area that showcase the restoration work being done throughout the region. You can view a slideshow of all restoration success stories out of Michigan here.

More >

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  • A Video Tribute to Peter Wege

    Last month, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition celebrated the life of businessman, philanthropist, and Great Lakes advocate Peter Wege at the 10th Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a video tribute. Watch it here.

  • Check out the Latest Update from the Field

    Read our latest field update from New York. Citizens Campaign for the Environment shares the results of their work with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand to ban microbeads at the federal level. Learn more.