During the last week of September, Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition brought together a diverse group of more than 400 people from throughout the Great Lakes region to attend the Great Lakes Restoration Conference in Chicago. I attended as Minnesota’s state lead for the coalition. At the largest annual gathering of Great Lakes supporters and activists, we learned about important Great Lakes restoration issues and projects. We also developed strategies to advance federal, regional, and local restoration goals for the Great Lakes.
During the conference, discussions focused on many problems facing the Great Lakes, along with strategies to address them. The strategies include:
- expanding green infrastructure in the Great Lakes basin to save money while cleaning up our water;
- addressing the threats from invasive species in the lakes with new and innovative solutions to stop their spread;
- advancing policies and best practices to significantly reduce agricultural pollution that can cause toxic algae blooms;
- engaging the public in advocating for restoration and protection of the Great Lakes.
The Coalition’s Great Lakes Restoration Conference was also held in collaboration with Great Lakes Week. This included U.S. and Canadian federal environmental agencies, the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Bi-National Network and the Great Lakes Commission. Another 300 people attended events with one of these organizations bringing the total to about 700 activists, government representatives, industry leaders, tribal members, environmental consultants, and academic institutions gathered under one roof to network and collaborate on issues of critical urgency facing the Great Lakes.
Clean Water Action is also a founding member of the Great Lakes Bi-National Network, which is a network created to help coordinate our Great Lakes protection and restoration work with our Canadian friends north of the lakes. We know the importance of collaborative and strategic campaigns to protect the Great Lakes. The conference and Great Lakes Week were a great success and CWA Minnesota will be implementing many of the strategies to advance policies that will protect and restore the Great Lakes.