The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recently released the 2019 State of the Great Lakes (SOGL) report, which provides an overview of the status and trends of the Great Lakes ecosystem.
“The Great Lakes is home to one of the world’s greatest bodies of fresh water and while progress on water quality is happening, there is still work to be done,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “This report shows that invasive species and excess nutrients continue to undermine ecosystem health. These status reports directly inform state and federal policies toward the Great Lakes.”
“The State of the Great Lakes report provides a snapshot of the health of the Great Lakes and is another assessment to help us prioritize how we work to continue to protect and restore them,” said Regional Administrator and Great Lakes National Program Manager Kurt Thiede. “We look forward to a continued partnership with Canada to ensure the Great Lakes remain an environmentally and economically important resource for both nations.”
“The Great Lakes are an important part of both the Canadian and US economies,” said Canadian Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson. “The ongoing protection and maintenance of this valuable freshwater resource is a great reminder of what we can accomplish by working together. Canada looks forward to continue collaborating with our American neighbours to safeguard the Great Lakes for generations to come.”
The SOGL report is developed in accordance with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and provides a summary of the health of the Great Lakes. The assessment is made based on indicators of ecosystem health, such as drinking water, fish consumption and beach closures. Over 180 government and non-government Great Lakes scientists and other experts worked to assemble available data and prepare the report.
Overall, Great Lakes water quality is assessed as “fair and unchanging.” While progress to restore and protect the Great Lakes has occurred, including the reduction of toxic chemicals, challenges cited in the report include invasive species and excess nutrients that contribute to toxic and nuisance algae.
EPA and the other federal agencies are using Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funds to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem including those identified in SOGL report.
Since the last report in 2017, about $900 million of GLRI funds have been used to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Actions over the last year include the release of the Great Lakes Action Plan 3 and the establishment of the first ever Trash Free Waters grants program for the Great Lakes.
Last month, EPA announced over $9 million for projects to reduce excess nutrients in the Great Lakes, $6.4 million to enhance Great Lakes fisheries and an additional $20 million for work to address persistent challenges in the Great Lakes.