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EGLE releases 2023 Michigan State of the Great Lakes Report, highlighting progress on protecting 21% of the world’s fresh surface water

Articles focus on the ongoing work to safeguard the Great Lakes and water-based economy for current and future generations

2023 State of the Great Lakes Report

The 2023 Michigan State of the Great Lakes Report

Big ideas, big actions, and big challenges dominate Michigan’s newly released 2023 Michigan State of the Great Lakes Report. In its 42 pages, the report covers progress cleaning up pollution in the Great Lakes, momentum behind fisheries management in Michigan, strategies to combat invasive aquatic species, investments in clean marine transportation and infrastructure, and much more.

The Office of the Great Lakes (OGL) in Michigan’s Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE) prepares and submits the annual report to the state Legislature on behalf of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, exploring major accomplishments, issues, and initiatives related to the health and sustainability of the world’s greatest surface freshwater system. 

“Michigan's water resources are unmatched and present all Michiganders a unique responsibility to protect them for current and future generations,” said EGLE Director Phil Roos. “The Great Lakes are the heart of Michigan. This report highlights the variety of individuals and organizations that wake up every day to research, restore, manage, and protect our world-class waters. I hope this report inspires action and serves as an illustration of the good, often quiet work to protect Michigan's natural resources.”

The 2023 report, posted online along with recent years’ editions, expands on several important topics from the 2022 report, including land and water conservation to advance climate goals in the MI Healthy Climate Plan, historic reinvestment in Michigan’s drinking water and wastewater infrastructure, and water-based education and workforce programming.

“While it’s impossible to sum up a subject as vast as the Great Lakes in a single report, the articles represent many areas where Michiganders are making a difference for the better,” said EGLE Great Lakes Senior Advisor and Strategist Emily Finnell. “Expect to be informed, inspired, and challenged.”

Finnell wrote in the report about 2023 highlights of OGL activities, such as the office’s $100,000 project to identify innovative water conservation best practices, hiring a stewardship coordinator to improve Great Lakes literacy in all generations of Michiganders, continued support of diverse collaborations for projects such as restoring and revitalizing Ox Creek in and around Benton Harbor, and promoting freshwater lake conservation on the global stage at the World Lake Conference in Hungary. 

The report covers all of Michigan while highlighting activities related to specific regions:

  • Detroit and Southeast Michigan: Detroit/Wayne County Port Authority’s Port of Tomorrow decarbonization project, new infrastructure stormwater standards that could alleviate flooding, and efforts to reduce phosphorus in the Western Lake Erie Basin through support of climate-smart and regenerative agriculture.
  • Lake Michigan: A Michigan-backed project to block invasive carp from entering the Great Lakes through the Chicago Area Waterway System’s Brandon Road Lock and Dam, and installation of electric vehicle chargers along the shoreline through the Lake Michigan Circuit Initiative.
  • Northern Lower Michigan: Fresh Coast Marine Corridor electric vessel chargers and Fresh Coast Marine Challenge decarbonization grants, Traverse City Freshwater Research & Innovation Center, Lilypad solar-powered leisure boats, and plans for an electric-powered Mackinac Island passenger ferry and a more efficient Charlevoix-Beaver Island ferry.
  • Southwest Michigan: Ox Creek Collaborative Partnership and the Twin Cities Sustainable Harbor Strategy in Benton Harbor and St. Joseph. Discovery of hydrilla, a highly invasive aquatic plant, for the first time in Michigan in Berrien Springs.
  • Upper Peninsula: Soo Lock construction, electric shore power for docked vessels, and the new College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Emphasizing the scope of governmental and other organizations focused on Great Lakes protections, the report includes articles from staff at EGLE, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, and support from the Michigan Department of Transportation, Michigan Economic Development Corp., and Office of Future Mobility and Electrification in the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Development, and more. It also highlights pieces from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lawrence Technological University, and Lake Superior State University. 

Here’s a complete list of topics covered:

  • OGL projects and priorities: Sustainability, climate, community well-being, environmental justice and equity, Michigan’s “blue economy,” Great Lakes literacy, and more.
  • Stewardship lake by lake: Priorities for the four Great Lakes that border Michigan, including collecting water quality data and restoring wetlands and coastal habitat.
  • Areas of Concern: Broadening Public Advisory Councils at the heart of remediation and restoration efforts through the U.S.-Canada Areas of Concern program.
  • Ox Creek revitalization: EGLE’s continued support of the community-driven plan for economic revival and environmental justice along the waterway in and around Benton Harbor.
  • Michigan fisheries management: Scientific and economic factors making their marks on Michigan’s freshwater ecosystem, past, present, and future.
  • Aquatic invasive species: Efforts to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes and stop the spread of hydrilla, one of the world’s most noxious aquatic plants.
  • Phosphorus reduction in the Western Lake Erie Basin: Focusing on agriculture’s role in improving water quality and reducing harmful algal blooms.   
  • Water infrastructure investment: Highlighting new investments that protect public health and the environment after decades of underfunding.
  • A new lock at the Soo: A progress report on construction of a second passage for 1,000-foot freighters that serves as an economic insurance policy.
  • Maritime clean energy and transportation: A sampling of significant developments in electric vessels, clean port facilities, and more.
  • Sustainable small harbors: An update of a Tools and Tactics Guidebook to help communities develop shared visions for sustainable, economically successful waterfronts.
  • Water and land conservation: A closer look at the MI Healthy Climate Plan’s “30 by 30” goal of conserving 30% of Michigan land and water by 2030 to lower carbon emissions.
  • Stormwater standards for water infrastructure: Increasing the capacity of water facilities to address a changing climate, protect health and safety, and reduce flood risks.
  • Coastal resiliency: A multistate study will consider the impact of future conditions on communities, infrastructure, and habitat along the Great Lakes shoreline.
  • Groundwater Data Management System: Turning abundant information into an accessible database to guide responsible groundwater stewardship.
  • Higher education and workforce development: The career-building focus of Lake Superior State University’s new College of Great Lakes Ecology and Education.

About EGLE’s Office of the Great Lakes

The OGL develops policy and implements strategic programs to protect, restore, and sustain the Great Lakes watershed. The office collaborates with partner organizations to support sustainable water use and development of Great Lakes maritime resources; support vibrant and resilient communities; foster water stewardship; and advance science, research, and policy to solve the next generation of water challenges. Its mission is to ensure a healthy environment, strong water-focused blue economy, and high quality of life for Michiganders.

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