New report documents two years of progress restoring the Great Lakes and making coastal communities more resilient

On February 5, 2021, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos released the 2018-2020 progress report on the restoration and protection of New York’s Great Lakes resources.

Prepared every two years, the report highlights partnerships and achievements completed during the prior two years, including improving resilience to coastal and tributary flooding impacts, protecting source waters, and accelerating restoration initiatives in communities that have been historically and disproportionately impacted by environmental pollution, called Environmental Justice communities.

The Great Lakes are an irreplaceable source of clean drinking water and support a wide range of opportunities for outdoor recreation that New Yorkers and visitors can enjoy all year round,” Seggos said.

The New York Great Lakes Action Agenda continues to serve as an integrated action plan to promote these sustainable uses while also protecting water quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and the communities dependent on these resources. The 2018-2020 report showcases how state, regional, and local partners have worked together to protect our shared natural resources, contributing to an improved quality of life for the region and state,” he added.

The 2018-2020 Great Lakes Program Report (PDF) highlights significant achievements, including:

  • Restoring habitats and recreational uses for Environmental Justice communities within the Rochester Embayment and Buffalo River Areas of Concern;
  • Adapting to storms and flooding by building back smarter and enhancing the resilience of Great Lakes coastal communities through Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s $300 million Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (leaves DEC’s website), Resilient NY, and other initiatives;
  • Improving and protecting critical water resources in waterways that drain to Lake Erie, Lake Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River to ensure waters are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable; and
  • Securing $19 million in federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) funding for 117 projects, complementing the State’s initiatives and commitment to restoring the shorelines of New York’s Great Lakes.

Substantial progress was made toward advancing the shared goals of New York’s Great Lakes Action Agenda by applying adaptive, ecosystem-based management approaches balancing the needs of communities, nature, and the economy. These approaches prioritize science-based decision making.

New York Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said, “New Yorkers along our Great Lakes coast know how essential the Lakes are to the region’s sense of place and the well-being of our communities. The Department of State is proud to partner with the Department of Environmental Conservation and our state and local colleagues to help communities identify opportunities for growth and increased collaboration that will lend to the region’s tremendous potential. Over the past year we have worked hard to advance actions that will utilize our abundant access to the water, increase our resiliency to coastal changes, and preserve the unique and special character of the region.”

In the coming year, DEC’s Great Lakes Program will update the Great Lakes Action Agenda for the next 10 years.

New York State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said, “New York State Parks oversees 140 miles of Great Lakes Shoreline from Lake Erie to the St. Lawrence River, hosting millions of people from around the world drawn to the State Parks and Historic sites along these incredible waters. We look forward to our continued partnership with the State Department of Environmental Conservation and other state and local partners to expand on the critical restoration and protection efforts we’ve achieved.”

The regular updates will help ensure that the Action Agenda reflects emerging challenges, new science, and innovative approaches in order to address the most pressing issues within our Great Lakes communities and ecosystems.

Historic postcard shows beach on Lake Ontario in Rochester, New York.

See full report (PDF).

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