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Focus Areas and Results

Since its start in FY 2010, GLRI has accelerated cleanup of the most polluted Great Lakes sites, reduced phosphorus loadings that often cause harmful algal blooms, and helped keep invasive species out of the Great Lakes. However, significant work still remains. The Federal agencies of the GLRI’s Regional Working Group continue to focus on Great Lakes restoration through on-the-ground and in-the-water projects which target the most significant environmental problems.

GLRI results are reported in Reports to Congress and the President. The FY 2020 report will include results for Action Plan III measures.

Under the first GLRI Action Plan, covering fiscal years 2010-2014, federal agencies met or exceeded 72% of the applicable targets that had been established.

Under the second GLRI Action Plan, covering fiscal years 2015-2019, preliminary results indicate that federal agencies met or exceeded 90% of the applicable targets that had been established. GLRI Action Plan II Measures

GLRI Action Plan III (FY2020-2024)

See the projects that are funded each year

Key accomplishments

Federal agencies of the GLRI's Regional Working Group are accelerating Great Lakes protection and restoration within each of the GLRI Focus Areas.

Accomplishments below are preliminary and cover the period from the start of GLRI in 2010 through September 2019 unless otherwise indicated.

Focus Area 1 – Toxic Substances and Areas of Concern (AOCs)

Graph showing removal of BUIs over time.

Beneficial Uses - In January 2021, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency reached the milestone of restoring 100 beneficial uses across Areas of Concern in the Great Lakes states.

Focus Area 2 – Invasive Species

151 acres of invasive phragmites were treated along the shoreline of Lake Tawas, Mich., home to the state’s largest beds of wild rice.

  • GLRI partners implemented invasive species control activities on more than 178,000 acres.
  • GLRI has been central to efforts that keep self-sustaining populations of silver, bighead, and black carp out of the Great Lakes.

Focus Area 3 – Nonpoint Source Pollution Impacts on Nearshore Health

The Center for Disease Control awarded GLRI funding for The Harmful Algal Bloom Program at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services to develop the state’s first blue-green algae beach signs.

  • GLRI has implemented projects resulting in a projected reduction of more than 1.5 million pounds of phosphorus which contributes to harmful algal blooms around the Great Lakes in priority watersheds.
  • GLRI implemented projects that capture more than 274 million gallons of untreated urban runoff annually. These projects increase green space in urban areas, reduce bacterial contamination, and return vacant properties to productive use.

Focus Area 4 – Habitat and Species

The Woodland Dunes Coastal Wetland project enhanced the resiliency of 50 acres of ridge and swale habitat near the Lake Michigan shoreline, with support from a GLRI grant through the U.S. Forest Service.

  • More than 5,400 river-miles have been cleared for fish passage.
  • More than 440,000 acres of habitat, including over 60,500 acres of coastal wetlands, have been protected, restored or enhanced.
  • Since 2015, 50 projects focusing on federally-listed endangered, threatened, and candidate Great Lakes aquatic and terrestrial species have been completed in the Great Lakes. Native fish species restoration projects and technical support made available to federal, tribal, and state fisheries agencies has accelerated restoration of Great Lakes commercial and recreational fisheries annually valued at greater than $7 billion.

Focus Area 5 – Foundations for Future Restoration Actions

  • GLRI partners have monitored and assessed the overall health of the Great Lakes, including monitoring of contaminants in Great Lakes fish, water quality and the lower food web in the offshore waters, and excess nutrients and harmful algal blooms in priority areas. This work informs management decisions regarding Great Lakes issues such as fisheries, harmful algal blooms and hypoxia. GLRI partners annually implement coordinated, intensive science and monitoring plans for each Great Lake.
  • In FY 2019, more than 670 educators received hands-on training in Great Lakes-based education and stewardship. Collectively, these educators will engage more than  35,000 students annually.

U.S. Geological Survey scientists and divers collected monthly samples to examine the influence of nutrient concentrations and invasive mussels on growth of the nuisance alga Cladophora. Overgrowth and washup of Cladophora mats negatively impact recreational use and habitat quality of coastal areas by altering food webs, harboring pathogens, and fouling shorelines.