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Great Lakes

DEC's Great Lakes Program has launched an online reporting tool (web browser:; mobile device:, that anyone can to use to submit observations of accumulating algae, most commonly Cladophora, along the New York shorelines of Lakes Erie and Ontario, and the Niagara and Saint Lawrence Rivers. The information collected will complement ongoing monitoring and modeling efforts within the U.S. and Canada under the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement that aim to provide a better understanding of where, when, and the extent to which, Cladophora is accumulating along the Great Lakes shorelines.

Coastline of Lake Erie
A beach on Lake Erie

About 80 percent of New York's fresh surface water, over 700 miles of shoreline, and 40 percent of New York's land area expanding over 33 counties are contained in the drainage basins of Lake Ontario, Lake Erie, and the St. Lawrence River. Sustaining life, providing recreation, and supporting local and regional economies, the Great Lakes are a true natural legacy to the people of New York.

DEC works with many organizations on cross-cutting programs to help protect, restore, conserve, and enhance the water quality and natural resources of the Great Lakes Basin. Some of these organizations can be found in the Great Lakes Directory (PDF).

No harmful algae blooms that have been identified in the waters of western Lake Erie have affected New York State drinking water and bathing beaches. Monitoring and surveillance of the New York portions of Lake Erie, as well as the Niagara River and Lake Ontario, have revealed no such blooms. More information about HABs can be found on the DEC HABs webpage, which includes an overview of HABs and drinking water concerns, including concerns about Lake Erie (PDF).

Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy

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The Governors of the Great Lakes States identified priorities for restoring and protecting the Great Lakes, supported by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, the Great Lakes Commission, and other groups committed to the preservation of the Great Lakes. President George W. Bush signed executive order 13340 on May 18, 2004, acknowledging the national significance of the Great Lakes and helping establish a "Great Lakes Regional Collaboration." The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration convened in Chicago, Illinois, on December 3, 2004 and included representatives of the federal government, the Great Lakes States, the Great Lakes Cities, the Tribes and the Region's Congressional delegation.

More recently, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was developed and is the largest federal investment in the Great Lakes in two decades. A task force of 11 federal agencies developed a plan to put the historic initiative into action. This action plan covers fiscal years 2010 through 2014 and addresses five urgent focus areas:

  1. Cleaning up toxics and areas of concern
  2. Combating invasive species
  3. Promoting nearshore health by protecting watersheds from polluted run-off
  4. Restoring wetlands and other habitats
  5. Working with partners on outreach

There is also a list of completed and ongoing projects funded by GLRI agencies in or for New York.

Be Green in the Great Lakes Project

DEC's Division of Materials Management recently completed the Be Green in the Great Lakes project. Outreach and education on options to use conventional pesticides and fertilizers for maintaining lawns, gardens, trees, and shrubs were provided. The project focused on yard care practices to protect water quality in the 33-county NYS Great Lakes basin. However, the information on tips and practices is useful statewide. Topics covered in the outreach include:

  • Soil and plant health
  • Non-chemical land and yard care
  • Appropriate plant selection and planting techniques for light, water, and soil conditions (covered at summer 2013 workshops)

The project was funded by the US Environmental Protection Agency under the Federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Land Care and Pest Management Practices Brochure

DEC's Land Care and Pest Management Practices brochure (PDF) contains useful tips on maintaining a sustainable landscape and preventing and managing outdoor pests. The tips introduce non-chemical management practices, which are part of preventing pollution in the Great Lakes and other water resources. To request copies of the brochure, contact the Division of Materials Management at or 518-402-8652.

Be Green Great Lakes Survey

Almost 400 New Yorkers responded to DEC's Be Green Great Lakes public opinion survey (6 page PDF, 348 KB). Respondents provided feedback on yard care maintenance and pest management practices. A summary of key survey results is available.

The Great Lakes: A shared resource, a shared responsibility

Check out The Great Lakes: a shared resource, a shared responsibility (PDF) for resources on the Great Lakes ecosystem, pests, and pest management.

Great Lakes Action Agenda

DEC's Great Lakes Program has worked with stakeholders throughout the basin to develop a new, fully integrated action plan that guides restoration and conservation activities in New York's Great Lakes region. This action plan, or Great Lakes Action Agenda, is a multi-agency, multi-program, and cross-region strategic plan to support innovative programs and build new partnerships at multiple levels of local, state, and federal government across the state's Great Lakes basin.

The plan identifies high priority actions and focuses federal and state funding opportunities to address the most critical challenges unique to this region, including contamination clean-up, restoration of fish and wildlife, waterfront and economic development, climate change resiliency strategies, and recreation and tourism development. This interim action plan serves as a useful tool that communities and organizations can use to plan projects, leverage capacity, and secure funding for projects that support relevant management plans and New York's shared vision for the conservation, restoration, and protection of our Great Lakes basin. Visit DEC's Great Lakes Action Agenda webpage for more information.

Lakewide Action and Management Plans

Satellite image of Erie and Ontario
Satellite image of Lake Erie (below, left)
and Lake Ontario (above, right)

In 1987, the governments of the United States and Canada committed to develop and implement Lakewide Management Plans (LaMP) for the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. In 2012, the name of these plans was changed to Lakewide Action and Management Plans (LAMP).

The LAMPs guide the work of U.S. and Canadian government agencies to reduce the amounts of contaminants entering the lakes and to address causes of lakewide problems. DEC, in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and many regional and local governments, industry, and public interest organizations work together to achieve the goals of the LAMPs.

Copies of the Lake Erie and Lake Ontario LAMPs and related reports are available on EPA's website. Direct links are in the "Links Leaving DEC's Website" section of the right-hand column of this page. More information is also available on DEC's Lake Ontario LAMP webpage.

Areas of Concern

Areas of Concern (AOC) are geographic areas around the Great Lakes that are environmentally degraded. In 1987, the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement designated 43 AOCs in the U.S. and Canada as a way to focus clean up work on these areas. Of the 43 AOCs, 26 are in the U.S., 12 are in Canada, and 5 are shared by both countries. New York State has 6 Areas of Concern: Buffalo River, Eighteenmile Creek, Rochester Embayment, Oswego River/Harbor, Niagara River, and St. Lawrence River at Massena. Visit DEC's Areas of Concern webpage for more information.

New York State Great Lakes Protection Fund

The New York State Great Lakes Protection Fund is a funding source for research and field assessment projects that protect, restore and improve the health of the Great Lakes ecosystem in New York. The Fund supports projects between government, academia, non-governmental and environmental groups to conduct research and exchange/apply information about remediating and sustaining the health of the plant, animal and human elements of New York's Great Lakes ecosystem.

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