Great Lakes Monitoring

Contact: John Matousek 517-755-6125

The Great Lakes provide Michigan with 3,200 miles of shoreline on 4 of the 5 Great Lakes which include Lake Superior, Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, and Lake Erie. This unique series of interconnected lakes allows the residents of Michigan access to the largest supply of fresh water on earth, recreational opportunities such as boating and fishing, as well as many other economic benefits.

The environmental monitoring of this valuable resource is an essential component of EGLE's mission and is accomplished through several activities. EGLE’s Great Lakes monitoring includes the following components (links to additional information are provided below):

Bays: Saginaw Bay and Grand Traverse have been monitored since 1999. Water samples are collected several times each year and are generally analyzed for nutrients, conventional parameters (temperature, conductivity, suspended solids, pH, dissolved oxygen), total mercury, and trace metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc).

Connecting Channels: The Great Lakes connecting channels have been monitored since 1969 in the Detroit River and since 1998 in the St. Clair and St. Mary’s Rivers. Water samples are currently collected each year from an upstream and downstream location in each of these three rivers. Samples are generally analyzed for nutrients, conventional parameters (temperature, conductivity, suspended solids, pH, dissolved oxygen), total mercury, and trace metals (cadmium, chromium, copper, lead, nickel, zinc).

Beaches: EGLE assists local health departments in implementing a voluntary monitoring program to monitor and report levels of E. coli in the swimming areas of public beaches. Many of these public beaches are located on the shores of the Great Lakes.

Fish Contaminants: EGLE’s Fish Contaminant Monitoring Program (FCMP) collects and analyzes fish tissue from the Great Lakes for bioaccumulative contaminants of concern. Several state, federal, and tribal agencies assist with the collection and/or analysis of samples and data. Fish contaminant data is used as an indicator of water quality trends and by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to help inform the Michigan Fish Consumption Advisories.

Coastal Condition: Every five years, EGLE partners with the United State Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA)to assist with the National Coastal Condition Assessment (NCCA). The NCCA collects data from coastal areas across the U.S. and the Great Lakes to provide a statistically valid regional and national estimate of the condition of U.S. coastal waters. The most recent NCCA sampling events were conducted in 2010 and 2015.

Coast Wetlands: One of the major objectives of Michigan’s Wetland Monitoring and Assessment Strategy is to cooperate with other public and private agencies and organizations to provide for the evaluation of Michigan’s most outstanding wetland resources, especially Great Lakes coastal wetlands, by supporting the long-term monitoring of coastal wetlands through the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Consortium and similar cooperative efforts.

Other agencies monitor in and around the Great Lakes.  Some of these groups include the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (fish and habitat assessments), U.S. Geological Survey (Great Lakes Science Center),and the USEPA (NCCA, coastal wetlands, fish monitoring, sediments, Cooperative Science and Monitoring Initiative (CSMI). The Lake Michigan Monitoring Coordination Council (LMMCC), although focused on Lake Michigan, is another group which was formed with the mission of coordinating and supporting monitoring activities across agency and jurisdictional boundaries.