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 or tweeting questions to @CameronDavisEPA with hashtag #AskGLW. We are even taking questions through Facebook at  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.

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