Map Highlights 100 Great Lakes Restoration Success Stories

Fish, wildlife benefiting from federally supported efforts to restore habitat, clean up pollution, and combat invasive species. 

10-16-2013 // Jordan Lubetkin

Great Lakes

Fish and wildlife are returning to rivers after decades-long absences. Businesses are sprouting along revitalized waterfronts. People are fishing, boating and swimming in harbors and rivers once deemed toxic hot-spots. These are some of the powerful stories about how federal efforts to restore the Great Lakes are producing results for people, communities, businesses, and fish and wildlife.

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is announcing that its interactive map illustrating how federal investments are restoring the Great Lakes now features 100 projects that have cleaned up toxic hot spots, restored wetlands, reduced runoff from cities and farms and advanced efforts to keep new invasive species out of the lakes.

The success stories are spread across the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania. Additional restoration success stories will be added to the map as more projects are completed. View the map at: 

"The 100 stories that we’ve chronicled are an inspiring and powerful reminder that the work we’re doing is paying off,' said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. "But there’s more to do, and this is no time to let up. That’s why it’s essential that the U.S. Congress and President Obama maintain funding for restoration efforts, because problems facing the lakes will only become more complex and expensive the longer we wait."

  • View a slideshow of successful projects from around the eight-state Great Lakes region at

Over the last four years, the U.S. Congress and Obama Administration have invested more than $1.36 billion through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to restore the Lakes—the source of drinking water for more than 30 million people.

Federally funded projects have enhanced Great Lakes fisheries, improved water quality, and restored fish and wildlife habitat. In some areas, projects have increased property values and become community centerpieces that spurred economic development. Among the highlights:  

  • The removal of more than 1 million yards of contaminated sediments containing PCBs and other toxic pollutants that harm the health of people and wildlife from Great Lakes harbors and tributaries.
  • The restoration of more than 20,000 acres of wetlands across the region that provide a home to wildlife, filter pollution, and improve water quality.
  • The first permanent ballast water treatment system on a Great Lakes freshwater ship, which was installed on a National Park Service ferry that transports visitors to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.
  • The renovation of a Pennsylvania fish hatchery that is producing up to 1 million native lake trout annually for Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.
  • The funding of a multi-state effort to reduce the flow of discarded pharmaceuticals into the Great Lakes. The project has kept more than 2 million pills from being discarded in waters that flow into the Great Lakes, where medications can affect fisheries and water quality.

Despite these and other successes, there are many signs that the Great Lakes are unhealthy: Toxic chemicals, invasive species, sewer overflows and loss of fish and wildlife habitat still plague the lakes. When the lakes are unhealthy, it is a drain on the economy and it means fewer jobs for the region.  Just as disturbing, unhealthy lakes mean fewer people can enjoy our beaches, our fishing, waterways, and clean drinking water.

"We cannot afford to stop protecting the Great Lakes—more than 30 million people depend on them for drinking water," Ambs said. “We have solutions to protect our Great Lakes, drinking water, jobs and way of life. We need to use them so that people can enjoy the lakes now and for generations to come."

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 125 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. For more information visit or follow us on twitter @healthylakes. 

The following experts and spokespeople are available to comment on specific Great Lakes restoration projects.


63rd Street Beach Dune restoration

Elise Waugh, communications coordinator, John G. Shedd Aquarium, 312-833-0565

Ask to talk to Reid Bogert, Shedd Aquarium coordinator of Great Lakes and Sustainability programs

Waukegan Harbor cleanup

Jean Schreiber, chair, Waukegan Harbor Citizens Advisory Group, 847-867-8067


Cowles Bog restoration

Lynn McClure, regional director, National Parks Conservation Association, 312-263-0111

Grand Calumet River cleanup

Caitie McCoy, Environmental Social Scientist at Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant
Liaison to U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office,


Boardman River dam removals

Amy Beyer, director, Resource Conservation Alliance, 231-946-6817

Chuck Lombardo 231-631-0224

Belle Isle restoration projects

Robert Burns, Detroit Riverkeeper, Friends of the Detroit River, 734-676-4626

Muskegon Lake sediment cleanup and habitat restoration

Kathy Evans, West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, 231-722-7878, Ext. 17


Stop Aquatic Hitchhikers Campaign (basinwide)

Douglas A. Jensen, Aquatic Invasive Species Program Coordinator, University of Minnesota Sea Grant Program, 218-590-7164


Buffalo River sediment cleanup (Phase I complete, Phase II just started)

Jill Jedlicka, executive director, Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper, 716-852-7483, ext. 21

Nicole Lipp, senior planner, marketing and communications manager, Buffalo-Niagara Riverkeeper, 716-852-7483 ext. 38



Lacustrine Refuge/Euclid Creek restoration

Claire Posius, Euclid Creek Watershed Coordinator, Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District, 734-676-4626

Blausey Tract Wetland Restoration

Kristin Schrader, Ducks Unlimited Public Affairs Coordinator, 734-623-2000



Multi-state effort to reduce the flow of discarded pharmaceuticals into Great Lakes Marti Martz, Pennsylvania Sea Grant, 847-217-9015

FourMile Creek fish passage project

Ken Anderson, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, 814-560-1201



Sheboygan River cleanup

Debbie Beyer, Natural Resources Educator, University of Wisconsin Extension, 920-459-6644

Frog Bay Tribal National Park

Meghan Dennison, Bayfield Regional Conservancy, 715-779-5263


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