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Great Lakes Advocates Gather in Detroit, Urge Feds to Maintain Support for Lakes

Annual Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition conference to highlight issues around water affordability, infrastructure, environmental justice.

Ann Arbor, MI —Amid ongoing lead contamination in cities such as Flint and Milwaukee, spikes in water rates in communities throughout the region, and attempts by the Trump Administration to eliminate clean water protections across the country, more than 400 Great Lakes advocates are gathering in Detroit, Mich., May 8-9, for the 14th annual Great Lakes restoration conference, to press federal officials to maintain support for core programs to protect the lakes and drinking water.

“We hope the conference is a catalyst for continued federal support for programs to protect our Great Lakes, drinking water, and economy,” said Mike Shriberg, interim executive director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “Federal investments are producing results in communities across the region, but serious threats remain. We cannot afford to weaken clean water protections. With many of our cities and towns living with unsafe drinking water, now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement. We need more – not less – protection for clean water.”

The conference comes on the heels of the release of the EPA’s Great Lakes Action Plan III—a five-year strategy that prioritizes how the U.S. government will invest resources to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff that causes algal blooms, and confront and manage invasive species like Asian carp. Chris Korleski, director of the EPA’s Great Lakes National Program Office, will be discussing restoration efforts on a Wednesday panel with Kara Cook, environment and energy policy advisor for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Dan Eichinger, director, Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The conference, sponsored by the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, will highlight issues around environmental justice and water affordability, including a keynote address by Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president for environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation, as well as a panel on water affordability led by Detroit activist, Monica Lewis-Patrick, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit.

“Climate change and other serious environmental threats are placing unprecedented stress on our water resources, wildlife habitat, and our communities,” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, vice president for environmental justice, climate, and community revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation. “We are running out of time. Elected officials need to act with urgency and purpose to address the climate crisis, uplift our most vulnerable communities, and protect our natural resources. We need to save our planet and save our lives.”

“Water is a basic need—yet people in Detroit and communities around the country are having their water shut off, seeing their water bills double or triple, and getting tap water contaminated by lead,” said Monica Lewis-Patrick, president and CEO of We the People of Detroit and member of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition’s Equity Advocacy and Action Committee. “That’s not acceptable. We need to make sure that as we are working with federal officials to protect iconic resources like the Great Lakes, we are also advancing solutions to make sure that that every person in this country has access to clean, safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation, so that we can protect the health of people now and for generations to come.”

The Great Lakes Conference will highlight cutting-edge issues that impact the lakes and communities in the eight-state region of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota, and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Sessions will delve into issues around water infrastructure, toxic algal blooms, oil pipelines in the Great Lakes, toxic PFAS and other emerging contaminants, climate change, and economic benefits of Great Lakes restoration.

Read the full agenda

The conference has been an incubator for ideas to advance Great Lakes restoration and protection. Over the past 10 years, the U.S. Congress has invested more than $3 billion to protect and restore the lakes.

Sponsors of the annual conference include more than 50 businesses, foundations, government agencies and nongovernmental organizations including: Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation; the Joyce Foundation; Fund for Lake Michigan; the Brookby Foundation; the Wege Foundation; the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation; the Brico Fund; Alliance for the Great Lakes; Great Lakes Fishery Trust; DTE Energy Foundation; The National Audubon Society; National Parks Conservation Association; National Wildlife Federation; McDougal Family Foundation; Shedd Aquarium; Frey Foundation; Ducks Unlimited; University of Michigan Water Center; International Joint Commission; U.S. Geological Survey; River Network; BlueGreen Alliance; Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources; United Steelworkers; Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy; Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research; Detroit Zoological Society; and The Nature Conservancy in Illinois, Minnesota, Michigan, New York, and Wisconsin.

Since 2004, the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 150 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Learn more at or follow us on Twitter @healthylakes.

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