The Great Lakes are a natural wonder of the world that holds one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply. Comprising over 700 miles of New York’s shoreline, Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River hold the key to our economic health, recreation, and irreplaceable family experiences. The Great Lakes supply millions of New Yorkers with their drinking water, provide habitat for wildlife, and support billion dollar industries such as tourism and fishing
With miles of spectacular beaches, wildlife-rich wetlands, amazing fishing opportunities, expansive forests, and clean drinking water, the Great Lakes ecosystem is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent treasure troves of natural resources on Earth.
CCE works at the local, state, and federal level to protect Great Lakes water quality and quantity by championing several Great Lakes campaigns and initiatives:
Comprehensive Great Lakes Restoration & Protection
Great Lakes Forever: Protecting Water Quantity
Lake Ontario Water Level Management
Halting Great Lakes Aquatic Invasive Species
Cleaning Up Toxic Great Lakes Pollution
Ecosystem-based Management for Great Lakes, Estuaries, and our Ocean
While the Great Lakes are truly great, they are also quite fragile, and signs of decline are apparent. Eighty-four percent of New York State’s (NYS) Great Lakes waters do not support designated uses, such as fishing and swimming. Raw sewage waste contaminating beaches, invasive species threatening food webs, unsustainable development destroying habitat, and toxic mercury making fish unsafe to eat have reached the point that the Lakes need us to defend them -to keep them healthy. We must take action now, before these problems get worse and the solutions become more expensive.
Get more information and take action to restore the health of the Great Lakes, improve water quality, and protect this amazing freshwater resource for current and future generations.
CCE is a member of the Healing Our WatersSM Great Lakes Coalition. Established in 2005, the coalition’s goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Led by the National Wildlife Federation and the National Parks Conservation Association, the coalition represents millions of residents in the Great Lakes region. For more information, visit www.HealthyLakes.org.
While seemingly inexhaustible, the Great Lakes are truly a gift of the glaciers, as rainfall and snowmelt only naturally replenish about one percent of the water annually. Once water removal from the Great Lakes for any reason extends beyond one percent annually, lake levels will decrease. The existing strains on this fragile ecosystem, such as pollution, invasive species, and climate change, will only be exacerbated if the sheer quantity of water is jeopardized by Great Lakes water export.
In response to the emerging threat to Great Lakes water quantity, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, composed of the eight Great Lakes Governors and the two Great Lakes Canadian Premieres, developed strong uniform standards to scrutinize all large water withdrawals. The plan, known as the Great Lakes St Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact, was ratified by each Great Lakes State Legislature and the US Congress. Now CCE is working to ensure strong implementation of the Compact in New York.
The International Joint Commission (IJC), the bi-national organization established in the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909, is charged with addressing the interests of the United States in Canada on water issues. In the 1950s, the St. Lawrence Water Control Board was established to manage water flowing over the Moses-Saunders Dam, which produces hydroelectric power. Decades of artificially controlled water levels have damaged the environment by eliminating significant habitat for fish and wildlife. CCE is advocating for a water level management plan that will allow more natural water levels, improved environmental conditions, and maintain benefits to hydropower.
More information on the Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Water Level Management Plan from the International Joint Commission
Invasive species pose an unrelenting threat to the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem and economy. There are 185 known invasive species already in the Great Lakes, and a new one arrives on average every 28 weeks. Once a new species establishes itself, it is almost impossible to remove and incredibly difficult to contain. CCE is working to urge Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to address the invasive species problem.
Of particular concern is the Asian carp, which is an invasive species of fish that wreaks havoc on native fish species. Due to their large size, ravenous appetites, and rapid rate of reproduction, these fish could pose a significant risk to the Great Lakes ecosystem. If not stopped, they could become a dominant species in the Great Lakes. Recent DNA testing indicates that the Asian carp may have already reached Lake Michigan.
Get more information take action to urge Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to address the invasive species problem.
Cleaning up toxic pollution in the Great Lakes: Support reauthorization of a strengthened Great Lakes Legacy Act
In 1987, the U.S. and Canada identified and committed to restoring the 43 most toxic hot spots within the Great Lakes basin, known as Areas of Concern or AoCs. The sediments in Great Lakes AoCs contain high concentrations of toxic chemicals and heavy metals, which threaten humans, aquatic organisms, and wildlife health. To remediate persistent contamination in the Great Lakes, Congress passed The Great Lakes Legacy Act in 2002, to provide critical funding to finally clean up these toxic hot spots. Much work remains to clean up the most toxic hot spots in the Great Lakes. Reauthorized in 2008, the Legacy Act is scheduled to expire once again in 2010, unless Congress acts to reauthorize the program.
In 2005 New York passed the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Act. This legislation shifts New York's coastal policy toward a comprehensive, holistic approach, known as ecosystem-based management (EBM). CCE is working to increase public awareness of this effective approach to improve New York’s water quality from Montauk to Buffalo, as well as ensuring that New York adequately funds this important program.
CCE's brochure, The Great Lakes: The Future is in Our Hands
Updated by bsmith 11/9/10