WSW: Progress in Restoring the Great Lakes

Aug 28, 2014

File photo
Credit iStock/Elizabeth Quillian

The Campaign Director of Healing our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says there are many challenges in the Great Lakes, but also great progress. 

Todd Ambs contributed a column to Great Lakes Echo on Great Lakes restoration, in response to an essay for the same publication by commentator Gary Wilson. Wilson was critical of Great Lakes restoration and said it needed more focus. Wilson was interviewed for WestSouthwest shortly after that piece appeared. 

Ambs told WMUK's Gordon Evans that he agrees with Wilson that there are many challenges to fully restoring the Great Lakes. But Ambs says Wilson did not acknowledge the significant progress that has been made. He says meaningful funding from the federal government has helped act on a planned initiative to restore the Great Lakes. Ambs says that includes work on a variety of fronts, including toxic hot spots, wetlands restoration, reducing runoff and keeping invasive species out of the Great Lakes. 

Asked about the biggest challenges facing the Great Lakes, Ambs says runoff from construction sites, storm water and agricultural sites is a major issue. He says problems associated with invasive species are also at the top of the list. Ambs says recent problems with the water in Toledo, Ohio can be traced to both of those issues. 

Gary Wilson called for Great Lakes restoration to be focused on a small number of big projects, such as sewage dumping. Ambs says there are some large-scale problems being addressed such as toxic hot-spots. But Ambs says restoration money is not targeted at sewage run-off, because there are already ways of dealing with that issue. He says funds have been established to limit sewage in the Great Lakes. 

Ambs says problems with polluted runoff and invasive species are complicated by climate change. He says in addition to warming, large rain events and snowfalls cause large storm water runoff. Ambs says that problem has only been addressed recently because its impact has not been fully felt until the past few years.