Great Lakes Week

The Great Lakes Christmas Tree Ship

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By Cameron Davis

On November 22, the Rouse Simmons listed badly, caked in ice from water and snow during one of storms for which the Great Lakes are known this time of year. Its cargo: more than 5,000 Christmas trees bound from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago.

Hermann Schuenemann had been part owner and captain of the Simmons for years. And he came from a sailing family. So it was still a surprise when the schooner went down off the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin, that fateful day, one hundred years ago.

Rallying, Herman’s wife Barbara and two daughters continued the business in Herman’s wake, bringing trees into the Chicago River for sale.

The tale is now legend in the Midwest, not only for the fate of Herman and his ship, but the tenacity of his wife and daughters. But today, the “Legend of the Christmas Tree Ship,” is more than an enthralling true story. It lives on in exhibits at the Rogers Street Fishing Village in Two Rivers.  It lives on through plays.  And it lives on through the U.S. Coast Guard’s cutter, Mackinac.

But most of all, it lives on through an appreciation of all the Great Lakes continue to deliver to us: water, jobs, recreation and an unparalleled quality of life.

Find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts at www.glri.us, or follow me on Twitter (@CameronDavisEPA). If you missed out on Great Lakes Week and still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box or send me a tweet.

About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Coming Full Circle with the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement

By Cameron Davis

Twenty-six years ago, I volunteered under the direction of the legendary Great Lakes advocate Lee Botts, to organize a public meeting at the Chicago Cultural Center. We wanted citizens to comment on what the U.S. and Canadian governments should include as they re-negotiated the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, a historic pact that commits the two countries to coordinate efforts to make these magnificent waterbodies healthier for everyone. The U.S. and Canada finalized the Agreement the next year, in 1987.

Today, I’m wrapping up my role as a lead negotiator on the U.S. negotiation team. On September 7, U.S. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and her Canadian counterpart, Environment Minister Peter Kent, will sign a new version the Agreement. Among other things, the 2012 Agreement will:

  • Emphasize prevention of future harm, which is good for the environment, public health and makes better fiscal sense.
  • Contain major new Annexes (issue-specific sections) dedicated to invasive species prevention, habitat and native species restoration, and preparing coastal communities for climate change.
  • Reaffirm or strengthen the 1987 version’s efforts to fix past environmental problems, such as in Areas of Concern, contaminants, and nutrients.
  • Include more opportunities for public input.

    People can watch the live signing on Friday, September 7th. It will be an incredible way to kick off Great Lakes Week that Monday in Cleveland, where the region’s top leaders and citizens will come together to discuss the theme “Taking Action, Delivering Results.”

    You can be part of all of this by Tweeting at me (@CameronDavisEPA) or interacting with us on Facebook.  See you there!

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    Results Energize Great Lakes Week

    By Cameron Davis

    If Earth Day should be celebrated every day, then Great Lakes Week should be every week. To the relief of the conference organizers, I’m not talking about a conference every week. However, I am talking about keeping alive the themes and energy that came from the first-ever Great Lakes Week.

    This mega event was hosted in Detroit, October 11-14, through the innovative partnership of several organizations including the U.S. EPA, the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force, Environment Canada, the International Joint Commission, the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition, the Great Lakes Commission and Wayne State University. These organizations all work separately on Great Lakes Restoration, but Great Lakes Week gave us an opportunity to take action together, set priorities for the coming years, and, most importantly show results.

    Speaker after speaker echoed that the region needs to keep its focus on results – that is, work that shows direct ecological benefit to the health of the Great Lakes. Administrator Lisa Jackson highlighted work under the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that is already beginning to show results:

    ·    Some 140 acres of wetlands restored at the Shiawassee Flats Wetland restoration area in Michigan’s Saginaw River basin is bringing back fish and wildlife habitat, improving water quality and reducing flooding.

    ·    Swimming bans and advisories at Chicago’s beaches are at a five-year low; other beaches are seeing decreases in beach closures.

    ·    Cleaning up toxic hotspot Areas of Concern, with dramatic progress at White Lake and River Raisin in Michigan, the Sheboygan River in Wisconsin, and the Ashtabula River in Ohio.

    Missed the conference and want to see highlights? Go to greatlakesnow.org to watch on-demand video footage of the week’s events. After all, it’s not that Great Lakes Weeks should be held every week, but we should make sure that we are achieving results every week of the year.

    Find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts at www.glri.us, or follow me on Twitter (@CameronDavisEPA). If you missed out on Great Lakes Week and still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comment box or send me a tweet.

    About the author: Cameron Davis is Senior Advisor to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. He provides counsel on Great Lakes matters, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    Great Lakes Restoration: Charting a Path Forward

    By Peter Cassell

    Growing up in New Jersey, I always had access to the beach, which every New Jersean knows as the Jersey Shore. Then I went off to college and didn’t get to enjoy ocean anymore. After accepting a job in EPA’s Chicago office, I got a pleasant surprise. There were beaches right near my apartment. Once again, I had access to the water. Lake Michigan does not have that same salty smell as the beaches of Long Beach Island, New Jersey, but going to the beach just has a way of reminding me of home.

    When I was not off enjoying and exploring what my new home had to offer, I was hard at work trying to learn about a central piece of my new job: the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. I received crash courses on emerging chemicals, invasive species and other issues affecting the lakes and soon realized that I had a precious resource right in my own backyard. Until I came here, I didn’t really grasp that millions of people rely on the lakes for everything from drinking water to their livelihoods to recreation with friends and family. I learned that the Great Lakes are more than just places on a map, they are a way of life.

    I fell in love with the Chicago waterfront and was ready to help make the lakes better so that everyone can enjoy them. When EPA’s Great Lakes Advisor Cameron Davis asked me to help organize Great Lakes Week, I jumped at the chance to do something tangible. We worked for months with nonprofits, businesses and Great Lakes organizations to put on the most wide-ranging Great Lakes summit in history. Hundreds of people will gather in Detroit from October 11-14 to be a part of this historic event. With speakers including Administrator Jackson and former Vice President Al Gore, the week is poised to chart a path forward as we address key issues and work together to achieve results.

    Even if you do not live in Metro Detroit, you can still participate by watching the events online at www.greatlakesnow.org or tweeting questions to @CameronDavisEPA with hashtag #AskGLW. We are even taking questions through Facebook at www.facebook.com/epagreatlakes.  Select questions will be featured at the Great Lakes Week Panel and Town Hall.

    Do you have a favorite memory about your beach or have you done something to help keep it clean? Feel free to share it with me along with your thoughts on the Great Lakes in the comment section. To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit

    About the author: Peter Cassell is a Press Officer in Region 5 who focuses on water issues, the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

    Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

    Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.