What will 2017 bring for the Great Lakes?

Jan 2, 2017
Originally published on December 29, 2016 2:57 pm

In just a few weeks, we’ll have a new presidential administration – and that could mean big changes for the Great Lakes.

Environmental groups are waiting to see how Donald Trump's administration handles issues that are crucial to the region.

Scientists are worried about his comments dismissing climate change and his pledge to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency.  Some say EPA Secretary nominee Scott Pruitt’s battles with the agency as Oklahoma Attorney General are troublesome.

But others are hopeful. Trump has made infrastructure improvement a part of his platform. And in the past, he’s stressed the importance of clean air and clean water.

Next year also brings the country’s first Aquahacking Conference – a months-long competition to create technology to help Lake Erie.  For the last two years, Canada has hosted similar conferences for the St. Lawrence River and the Ottawa River.  The Cleveland Water Alliance will host the 2017 event in May. 

“We’ll have what we call a data challenge, data competition. And out of that, will come an awarding of more than $100,000 in prize dollars for those that develop solutions for the Lake Erie watershed,” said the alliance's executive director, Bryan Stubbs.

Initial results from a set of demonstration farms will also start trickling in.  Three farms are testing practices that could reduce harmful phosphorus runoff.  These experiments – and farming regulations -- may affect 2017’s algae blooms.

Meanwhile, Great Lakes researchers will continue to battle sea lamprey, Asian carp, and other invasive species.

And they’ll monitor the impact of changing Lake Ontario’s water level by allowing it to fluctuate more naturally. Environmental groups say the change will help restore wetlands; waterfront homeowners fear damage from flooding and erosion.

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