Progress on restoring our Great Lakes is happening. But there is a backlog of restoration needs that went unfunded for years and emerging threats continue to arise such as the algal blooms. The need to continue funding work that restores, protects and enhances our lakes will remain for many years to come.
The successes of the Healing Our Waters coalition emphasizes that through collaboration and working together—we
can really accomplish more, faster. We say, “Yeah for Teamwork that is helping our Great Lakes.”
Restoring the health of our Great Lakes—Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Superior and Erie— requires working together, collaboration, or in simple terms—teamwork. It was 2004, when the Healing Our Waters—Great Lakes Coalition was
formed with the goal to secure a sustainable Great Lakes restoration plan and the federal funding needed to implement it.
Eleven years later, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has invested $1.9 billion in the eight-state Great Lake region and funded 2,500 restoration projects. As a result, over 1,900 river miles have been cleared of barriers to fish passage. Additionally, Great Lakes region is the only area in the country to show gains in wetland acreage. So far, over 113,000 acres of wetlands and habitat have been restored, protected, or enhanced with funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds.
The Healing Our Waters coalition, commonly referred to as HOW, has more than 125 environmental, conservation, and outdoor recreation organizations, as well as zoos, aquariums, and museums. When it was first organized there was no widely agreed upon plan to restore the Great Lakes and there was certainly no dedicated funding source.
Teamwork—as cliché and corny as it sounds—has made a huge difference for the health of our Great Lakes. In 2005 the Great Lake Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes was developed and with an active presence in Washington, D.C., the HOW coalition educated federal public official about the importance of restoring the Great Lakes. Four years later, President Obama promised and created funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI). It took was 125 organizations working together to get results!
Freshwater Future’s roll has included providing financial help to groups on the ground doing the work— building their capacity to secure the large federal grants set aside for GLRI and our Executive Director, Jill Ryan, serving as a past co-chair of the Healing Our Waters Coalition.
One of HOW’s priorities was to get funding to enable local groups to complete restoration projects especially in selected priority areas that were toxic hot spots.
To help local groups capture and leverage federal funds, Freshwater Future, with funding support fr
om HOW, operates the Priority Area Implementation Program. The Implementation Program provides small grants to build the capacity they need to obtain federal dollars for the most important restoration projects. In addition, the Implementation Program offers community engagement grants which allows local groups to engage the community in state or federal fun restoration projects, building needed buy-in for restoration projects.
Since 2010, Freshwater Future has granted $682,064 to help local
and state groups get federal grants for restoration projects. The 2010-2012 HOW grantee
s alone have leverage $8,576,013 in GLRI funds and $18,984,286 overall (includes other federal and state grants?). Thanks to the Frey Foundation, additional Implementation Grants are now available for groups in Western Lake Michigan. Want to find out more, go to our website, www.freshwaterfuture.org.