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With significant strides made in 2020, focus now is on keeping momentum going to protect and restore Great Lakes

EGLE Director Liesl Clark on the shores of a Great LakeAs part of Great Lakes and Fresh Water Week, MI Environment is featuring several articles from the recently-released State of the Great Lakes report. Today's article by EGLE Director Liesl Clark highlights significant strides made in the past year and how 2021 will keep the momentum going.

We faced new challenges and opportunities for the Great Lakes State in 2020, as we continued to do the work to protect and restore the world's largest freshwater resource.

This year provided opportunities for learning and adapting to new experiences, with the COVID-19 pandemic resulting in nearly all Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) staff working remotely.

We have continued to serve our 10 million Michigan residents by ensuring that we carry out our mission to protect Michigan's environment and public health by managing air, water, land and energy resources.

One silver lining from the COVID-19 pandemic has been the renewed interest among Michiganders to reconnect to the outdoors and enjoy our water playground. We look forward to building on that renewed connection to further drive Great Lakes stewardship.

We remain steadfast in our work to address issues ranging from emerging contaminants such as PFAS, impacts from severe storm events and stress on our infrastructure systems, to high water levels, changing climate, and the continued threat of invasive species.

This year also brought many new opportunities, including significant investments to improve our water infrastructure to be safer, more efficient and resilient to better protect water resources and public health across the state. Our successes are many, such as accomplishing a decades-long cleanup of the Lower Menominee River Area of Concern; reef restoration resulting from quagga mussel treatments along Sleeping Bear Dunes that shows promise for restoring important fish spawning habitat; and our continued efforts to build the next generation of water stewards and leaders through EGLE's Office of the Great Lakes' work with partners on the From Students to Stewards Initiative. We took much of our work virtual and used new tools and technologies to enhance and expand our collaborations with partners, reaching more people than ever.

Regina Strong, EGLE's Environmental Justice Public Advocate, and her office are focusing on transformative approaches to engage with people and communities in a more meaningful and inclusive manner. All of the work we do must be informed by our collective efforts to engage with the public to address public health, equity and Environmental Justice in communities across Michigan.

This year has also provided opportunities to think about how we build back a stronger, more resilient and adaptive Great Lakes State from an environmental, economic and social perspective. EGLE will lead the Michigan Council on Climate Solutions, which will craft and implement the Governor's MI Healthy Climate Plan. This 2020 State of the Great Lakes report is a testament to the hard work of our staff and our many partners at the local, state, regional and binational levels to protect, restore and promote our precious freshwater resources. This has never been more important as we face the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. I am proud of all the successes that are a result of our partnerships with all of you. But there is always more to do. It's important work that we cannot accomplish on our own. Won't you join us?

Photo caption: EGLE Director Liesl Clark on the shores of a Great Lake.

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