Great Lakes

Lakefront Lunacy

By Cameron Davis

When my cousin/godson Jamie issued the challenge in late December to join him and about a dozen of his college friends to dive into the cold waters of Lake Michigan on January 1, I couldn’t resist. After nearly three decades of working on and recreating around the Great Lakes, this was something I’d never done before.

On January 1, the outside air temperature was 20 degrees. The water temperature along the lakefront: a mild 34 degrees.

As we sat in the parking lot at Evanston’s Lighthouse Beach waiting for everyone to arrive, my brother in law Charley wondered out loud: “do you think anyone else will show?”

A text from Jamie came in. Some of his friends “got the time mixed up” and—not surprisingly—would not be showing up. “Jamie will show,” I reassured Charley (and myself). “He’s got good mettle.”

A few minutes later, Jamie arrived, a single soldier among his battalion that was AWOL. We marched stolidly toward the icy water’s edge, peeled off layer after layer of clothing until we were only in our bathing suits, then plunged into the breaking whitecaps.

Actually, the dive wasn’t all that bad. The numbness took a bite out of whatever pain we would have normally felt. Still, I was happier after the fact, than during.

With all my instincts screaming, “don’t do it!” as I walked to the water, I still did it. But there was one thing I couldn’t bring myself to do: call this ritual the “polar bear plunge.” After all, we don’t have polar bears in the Great Lakes. If you ever contemplate doing something crazy like jumping into these frigid waters to celebrate a new year, we now have a more indigenous name for it: lakefront lunacy.

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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

The Great Lakes Christmas Tree Ship

Several links below exit EPA Exit EPA Disclaimer

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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

From Igniting the Environmental Movement to Restoring the Great Lakes

By Peter Cassell

On June 22, 1969, oil and debris in Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River caught fire. It wasn’t the first time this happened but it was an image that stuck with Americans, an image that helped us focus on threats to the environment. The formation of the Environmental Protection Agency the following year blazed a path for environmental legislation such as the Clean Water Act in 1972 and an environmental movement that is still going strong.

A few weeks ago, I helped represent EPA alongside the Canadian government, other federal agencies, non-profits, academic institutions, and businesses at Great Lakes Week 2012 in Cleveland. There were field trips, tours, and seminars about more than 700 projects going on around the basin to restore the Lakes, many funded by the President’s Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).

Attendees also recognized the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. It helped me appreciate that waters I use today were once so polluted I wouldn’t have been able to use them then. I wouldn’t be able to squeeze in trips to the beach, kayak, or fish in my spare time if these areas weren’t cleaned up.

When I moved to Chicago two years ago I fell in love with the Great Lakes and became one of 30 million Americans around the basin who depends on the Lakes in my everyday life. Thankfully, after 40 years of the Clean Water Act, 40 years of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, and three years of the GLRI, I can love the Great Lakes up close, not from afar.

Do you have a favorite memory from enjoying this beach season? Feel free to share it with me along with your thoughts on Great Lakes issues in the comment section.

To find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit www.glri.us or follow us on Twitter (@EPAGreatLakes) or Facebook.  You can also watch clips from Great Lakes Week 2012.

About the author: Peter Cassell is a Press Officer in EPA’s Chicago office who focuses on water issues, the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    The Milwaukee Model: An Intersection of Great Lakes Restoration and Workforce Development

    By Chris Litzau

    I attended several sessions at the Great Lakes Areas of Concern Conference in Milwaukee this year that generated spirited discussions about growing jobs with Great Lakes clean up and restoration funds.

    For example, in Milwaukee, an environmental engineering firm partnered with local brownfield remediation job training and certification programs for disadvantaged young adults, to place training participants at the Kinnickinnic (KK) River sediment dredging project. I was impressed with the commitment made by the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office (GLNPO) and its contractor to permit trained and certified trainees to shadow and assist with the monitoring and oversight of the dredging project. The model was replicated at a subsequent PCB dredging project in Milwaukee’s Area of Concern, and led to the involvement and eventual hiring of dozens of training participants at water quality improvement, conservation and remediation projects throughout the region.

    During the dredging projects, training participants interned at the site with GLNPO’s contractor. All participants completed the EPA’s Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training (EWDJT) Program, which was funded with an EPA grant. By attending the training program, participants acquired the necessary Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 40-hour Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) certification. The certification was a prerequisite for the trainees to be able to participate in the project.

    It’s clear to me that the successes of the young adults – and the efforts of EPA and contractor staff – established a model for other clean up and restoration projects. Several workforce development programs such as the program that supported the Milwaukee Model are located within AOCs or near rivers, lakes, reservoirs and other bodies of water. I believe that these programs also offer a pipeline of young adults who can assist and learn at water quality treatment, improvement and remediation projects during future grants.

    I think that the Milwaukee dredging project clearly demonstrates that consultants and contractors are able to cultivate knowledge and technical skills among a population of disadvantaged young adults, and – through the process – grow the future workforce. The KK River project in Milwaukee is proof that the Great Lakes Legacy Act combined with the EWDJT Program can stimulate the economy with a ripple effect that makes a lasting impact on the physical landscape and social fabric of the community.

    About the author: Chris Litzau served as the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Community Service Corps for 12 years before recently leaving the organization to grow the Great Lakes Community Conservation Corps (Great Lakes CCC) into a regional job training and education program.  The mission of the Great Lakes CCC is to leverage resources among Great Lakes communities to train and educate disadvantaged populations for credentials that close the skills gap, improve water quality, build habitat, grow the legacy of the original Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and make the region more competitive in the global economy.  In 1998, Mr. Litzau administered one of the first 10 grants awarded by the EPA through its nascent Brownfield Job Training Program.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    The Day Science Saved the Great Lakes… and Possibly the Lake Erie Water Snake

    By Cameron Davis

    Ohio State University’s Center for Lake Erie Area Research (CLEAR) and Sea Grant’s Stone Lab—the oldest freshwater biological field station in the U.S.—is perched on Lake Erie’s Gibraltar Island and the northwestern tip of Lake Erie’s South Bass Island. They look over Put-in-Bay and an expanse of water where U.S., British and Canadian navies battled famously 200 years ago next September. In the 1970s, CLEAR and Stone Lab helped beat back Round One of Lake Erie’s eutrophication scourge. More recently, they have proven that rare species—this time the Lake Erie water snake—can be brought back from the brink of extinction.

    So, on August 2, I was excited to speak to this group at Director Jeff Reutter’s invitation about “The Day Science Saved the Great Lakes.” Of course, the title was figurative because scientific research alone can’t save the Great Lakes. And, because science is a process that unfolds over time; it can’t discover and help solve problems overnight, especially those of the magnitude we’re confronting in the region. The point of the talk was to show how science that better predicts incoming/oncoming threats to the Great Lakes gives policymakers and the public enough time to act.

    I relayed “The Sad Tale of Joe Schormann,” (thanks to Dave Dempsey’s book, On the Brink) where our hero (Schormann) commissioned a study warning about the introduction of zebra mussels. Unfortunately, some seven years after the study, zebra mussels showed up in Lake St. Clair. Today, we have excellent examples of work identifying possible pathways for invasive species to get into the Great Lakes and their risk levels. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s GLANSIS Watchlist funded in part by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is one example. Another is the Corps of Engineers’ GLMRIS Other Pathways Risk Assessment .

    Science has an important role to play in saving the Great Lakes. Its role becomes even more important if it’s predictive and supporting key outcomes.

    Has science influenced you recently in your everyday life, or made you want to change a behavior or attitude? Feel free to share it with me in the comment section. If you want to find out more about our Great Lakes restoration efforts, visit www.glri.us, 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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    TEAM ECK H20

    student

    The Great Lakes are a Midwest treasure, and the students at Harper Woods Middle School in Michigan know it.  That is why they were recently recognized in a national competition for their environmental stewardship of the Great Lakes.

    Team ECK H20 , as they’re called, wanted to research the unseen threats to human and environmental health in water sources, specifically the Milk River and the 10 Mile Drain which is in their community.  This team of 13 year old girls built and deployed water sampling buoys that contained plates designed to use a chemical called EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) to extract harmful chemicals that may be in the water.  They then collected the sample plates to measure the levels of pollution and toxic chemicals in each water location.  With the assistance of a lab team from University of Connecticut, the girls uncovered that there were lower levels of pollution in the 10 Mile Drain when compared to the Milk River location.  The girls’ think that the EPA’s recent clean up of the Ten Mile Drain is contributing to the lower pollution levels.

    When asked about their efforts, one team member, Emily, said, “It just tells us that we have to be more careful; with how we treat our lakes and water sources.” This project has opened up Emily’s eyes to a future in environmental law.  The girls hope that they can continue their research next year as 8th graders.  In the meantime, they have coordinated beach clean-up teams and have presented their project findings to local government agencies.

    Great things are happening in Michigan. Team ECK H20 is just one example.

    Yvonne Gonzalez is a SCEP intern with the Air and Radiation Division in Region 5.  She recently received her dual graduate degree from DePaul University.

    Editor's Note: The opinions expressed herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

    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 herein are those of the author alone. EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog, nor does EPA endorse the opinions or positions expressed. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content. If you do make changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

    EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

    EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.