Great Lakes

Great Input Keeps the Great Lakes Great

By Cameron Davis

I am happy to share that on May 30, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, who chairs the Great Lakes Interagency Task Force of 16 federal agencies coordinating to restore the Great Lakes, announced the formation of a committee to help make Great Lakes recovery even more effective.

Stakeholder commitment is the backbone of the very programs, like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and U.S.-Canadian Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, which accelerate Great Lakes recovery. In announcing the new Great Lakes Advisory Board, Chair Jackson said, “it’s important that we hear from experts and stakeholders who can strengthen our efforts. By providing insight from those who know these waters best, the Great Lakes Advisory Board will ensure the continued success of the work already underway, and help move into the next phases of Great Lakes restoration and protection.”
The Task Force, through EPA, will request nominations from leaders soon. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative  or by following me on Twitter @CameronDavisEPA.

To view the Federal Register notice announcing EPA’s intent to establish the advisory board, see

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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Tell Us Why “Water Is Worth It” To You

By Travis Loop

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. As our team at EPA planned a variety of activities to mark the occasion, we settled on the tagline Water Is Worth It.
I suppose that seems like a really broad, open-ended and ambiguous phrase, which also raises a number of questions. What is it worth? Why is it worth it? Worth it to who?

But that was the point – to have a tagline for the 40th anniversary that reflects the diverse spectrum and incredible depth of water’s importance to people. And while there is much about water’s value to civilization that is universal, water is also extremely personal and subject to an individual’s experiences. Our society has collective uses for water, such as drinking, swimming and fishing. But water also has a special and unique place in our lives, whether rooted in memories of a childhood watering hole, a river that runs by the neighborhood or a career focused on protecting water. For me, surfing and diving in the ocean is virtually a spiritual experience and watching my children play in the water brings me tremendous joy.

So when you hear Water Is Worth It, what does that mean to you?

We really want to know. So to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, EPA is asking people to send in a 15-second video clip about the important role that water plays in their life. Each video should include the phrase “Water Is Worth It,” but the rest is up to you. EPA will post selected videos on its website and Facebook page.

To learn more and register, visit

Fill out a video entry form, and submit your entry as a video response to the promotional video on EPA’s YouTube page. Video submissions must be received by September 14, 2012.

Grab your friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, classmates, and pets and let us know why Water is Worth It to you. We’re confident that the submissions are going to show that water means many different things to many people, but that it is critically important to everyone.

About the author: Travis Loop is the communications director for the Office of Water at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.


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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The Badge of Honor

By Cameron Davis

I know phrases like “we need to save the Great Lakes for the next generation” are so often uttered that it can risk becoming a biological bromide (as opposed to a chemical one)…it can become as worn as an old pair of shoes.

In the waning days of Earth Month, I had the chance to help the great staff of the National Park Service coach kids from kindergarten through 8th grade as part of the Great Lakes Junior Park Ranger Program at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Supported by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, with leadership from pros like NPS’s Carmen Chapin, Marcus Key, Phyllis Ellin and Wendy Smith, the program teaches future leaders the importance of native ecosystems using Adopt-a-Beach® and other initiatives. After completing the program, participants get a shiny new Great Lakes Junior Badge. Said one up-and-comer: he loved the Junior Park Ranger Program and helping to save Lake Michigan “because we need to drink water.” Kind of hard to argue with that.

If the Great Lakes Junior Ranger program was any indication, yes, we need to save the Great Lakes for them. But, from what I saw, they’re starting to save the Lakes for themselves. Maybe we need to just get out of their way.

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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The Big Year Is Coming To A Region Near You

By Cameron Davis

No, not the movie, or the best-selling book on which it’s based about one man’s pursuit of breaking the record for most birds seen in one year. Rather, 2012 is The Big Year for the Great Lakes region.

The U.S. and Canada completed the last round of formal negotiations to revise the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement in Ottawa on January 20th. The revised agreement will incorporate recommendations from the public to tackle new threats to the Great Lakes: invasive species, climate change impacts and habitat protection. Another benefit of the revitalized Agreement that probably won’t make headlines, but is as important as anything else:  it will be more user-friendly than previous versions. During the coming weeks the U.S. and Canada will be putting the finishing touches on language to revise the Agreement, which has long been considered a model of binational environmental cooperation. More details to come…

Then there’s the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. President Obama’s FY13 budget is due for release on Monday, February 13. Stay tuned to hear about FY13 GLRI funding. Administrator Jackson will be announcing the EPA’s budget, including the multi-agency GLRI numbers, upon the White House’s budget release. Follow me on Twitter for an up-to-the-minute up-date.

To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit, or follow me on Twitter (CameronDavisEPA).

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.

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Investing in the Great Lakes: GLRI in 2011

By Cameron Davis

Over the last few weeks, we have announced million of dollars in funding for EPA-Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant investments across the Great Lakes basin. The only way the Great Lakes will be restored is through partner organizations and agencies doing their best work on the ground and in the water.

Lake Erie has been hit hard by harmful bacteria and algae, which can choke our beaches and threaten aquatic life, which according to some estimates can cost communities around Lake Erie up to $300,000 annually per beach closure. That’s why we made our first announcement in Toledo, Ohio. We highlighted work to build and maintain wetlands that capture phosphorus and other kinds of runoff that contribute to this problem, among other projects.

In Michigan, we’re tackling stormwater and working to open up the Boardman River, the largest dam removal and modification project of its kind. The completion of this project will reconnect hundreds of miles of river with Lake Michigan.

We’ve also announced grant investments in other Great Lake States to support efforts to fight invasive species, bring back habitat, and clean up Areas of Concern. This is the second year of the GLRI and we have already seen results but we can’t stop there.

You can find a project going on near you by visiting and using the interactive map on the home page. Feel free to share your thoughts with me about Great Lakes restoration in the comment box below. You can also find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts at the site listed above or by following me on Twitter (@CameronDavisEPA).

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.

Students Fight Fire With Fire, And Stop An Invasion!

By Thomas Mendez

As an avid SCUBA diver in the Great Lakes region, I’ve seen firsthand how an invasive species can cause havoc in an ecosystem. Invasive Zebra and Quagga mussels now blanket the bottom of our Great Lakes. Because of their widespread proliferation without natural predators, it would seem that no solution is in sight. So, when I heard about Westborough High School’s effort to control their local invasive species with another predator species, I was intrigued.

Westborough is a community west of Boston that has a problem with the invasive purple loosestrife plant. This plant is quickly changing the balance of natural wetlands in the area by outcompeting native species. These aggressive plants originated in Europe and Asia. Here in the United States, there are no native predator species that can control purple loosestrife populations. The result is an invasive plant that spreads quickly, causes significant damage to wetlands, reduces native plant coverage and discourages diversity in the local ecosystem.

This is where the students of Westborough High School are making a difference. The environmental studies students, together with the Westborough Community Land Trust, are raising beetles. These aren’t just any beetles, but a specific species, Galerucella, that prey on the purple loosestrife. At first I was leery of this method of species control because the Galerucella beetle itself is not a native species. However, my trust in this method was renewed as I researched the efforts of these motivated students.

The Galerucella beetles the students are raising feed on purple loosestrife almost exclusively. Also, these beetles prefer purple loosestrife and will only reproduce on this plant even when other native species are available. It would seem that these two species’ fates are intertwined. As the beetles feed on the purple loosestrife, the population of purple loosestrife declines, the beetles are forced to move on to another area the purple loosestrife inhabits or naturally die off. Both the USDA and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection have approved this method of bio-control and have been using it for some time now.

These students are learning valuable environmental lessons while helping to control their local invasive species. This winning combination, classroom education and real world experience that produces a cleaner and healthier environment, provides a lesson students will not forget.

About the author: Thomas Mendez is a Student Temporary Employment Program intern in the Air and Radiation Division in EPA’s Chicago office. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and is currently finishing up his Master of Science in Environmental Engineering.

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 post.

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.

Protecting America’s Coasts: What It Means to the Great Lakes

By Cameron Davis

Nearly 1,000 people attended the recent Coastal Zone 2011 conference in Chicago to recognize the first year anniversary of President Obama’s “National Ocean Policy,” to protect the country’s oceans, coasts and Great Lakes. So, why should we freshwater fans in the Great Lakes basin care about a policy that seems largely about saltwater? For a lot of reasons.

First, the Great Lakes are connected to and impacted by saltwater. Our front door is the St. Lawrence River, through which ocean-going ships enter the Great Lakes. Our back door is the Chicago Area Waterway System (CAWS), which connects Lake Michigan to the Gulf of Mexico via the Chicago, Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. Both doors present a way for invasive species to enter the Great Lakes and vice versa.

Second, in an era of shrinking budgets, stronger coordination and partnership is important. At this conference, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s work with the Great Lakes Inter-Agency Task Force was mentioned as a good example of Federal and binational agency coordination.

Third, investments in ecosystem restoration typically come out of the same pots of funding. To avoid a zero-sum game, where one dollar for one system means the loss of that dollar for a different system, the national policy can be a mechanism to ensure a “rising tide lifts all boats” by funding and coordinating work in all regions while recognizing regional differences.

For more about President Obama’s National Ocean Policy, visit

For more about the CZ 2011 conference, visit

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.

Science Wednesday:Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline Science Workshop Day 7!

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Dr. Joel Hoffman

Workshop Day#7, Teachers teaching teachers

Tuesday afternoon the US EPA’s Research Vessel Lake Guardian returned to port in Duluth, MN, where we were joined by five teachers who were participating in a shore-based Great Lakes science workshop with the Lake Superior National Estuarine Research Reserve . The teachers from theshore-based workshop had been sampling in the National Estuarine Research Reserve located in the St. Louis River, during the past two days to measure its environmental quality.

In July 2011, scientists and educators from around the Great Lakes will be aboard EPA’s Lake Guardian research vessel to research environmental conditions in Lake Superior, and share their stories.
NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

NERR (shore-side) teaching our teachers (ship-side)

Our sampling plan was to sample in the St. Louis River, close to the reserve, and then sample out in the lake so that the teachers could compare the environmental quality. But as we arrived at the station and began to start our sampling, something different happened – something that had not happened while we were sampling on Lake Superior. The teachers stepped up. The scientists stood back. Those teachers who have been with us the past week described the scientific instruments to the shore-based educators. Then they explained what the data were used for and how the data should be interpreted. The shore-based educators, in turn, looked at the results and told the boat-based educators how the values we got near the reserve or out in the lake compared to the results they had obtained in the river. I was greatly impressed. The teachers were now teaching the teachers.

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

LG (ship-side) teachers showing NERR teacher how to diploy zooplankton net

A week ago, I stood alongside our rosette, a sampling device that is lowered into the lake to measure its physical and chemical properties, and carefully explained the way it worked, why it took the data it did, and why that was useful to scientists. A week later, the workshop teachers can explain with confidence the same device and provide personal stories about how it was important to the science in which they participated during the past week. Scientific terms that were foreign are now familiar. Concepts that were difficult are now comfortable. This is all evidence for the value of this immersive experience. When we have teachers working shoulder-to-shoulder with scientists, the teachers truly internalize the information and so they have the confidence to share it with others. And now they can share it with their students – the next generation of stewards of our Great Lakes.

This blog is the last in our Workshop series, thanks for joining us on the journey! Check out the Workshop website for much more information, including blogs by the teachersand podcasts.

About the author: Dr. Joel Hoffman is a research biologist in EPA’s Mid-Continent Ecology division, and. the head scientist for the 2011 Lake Guardian Shipboard and Shoreline workshop on Lake Superior.

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.