Great Lakes report assesses condition as “Fair”

Lake Erie on March 3, 2020 (Photo by Allanah Wills)

According to the collective work of 120 scientists and other experts, the health of the Great Lakes is fair and unchanging.

The State of the Great Lakes 2022 Report used nine indicators to assess the overall health of the Great Lakes basin. Researchers said there has been “tremendous progress in restoring and protecting the Great Lakes,” but “there are still significant threats — including the impacts of nutrients, especially in Lake Erie.” It also warned climate change is intensifying challenges in some ecosystems.

Lake Erie had the worst grades of the five major lakes.

While it noted a productive Walleye fishery, it assessed the lower food web and nutrient levels as poor. Higher levels of nutrients contribute to algal blooms.

The lake got a fair grade for the level of toxic chemicals, and the status of its beaches, while wetlands were rated fair to poor.

The groundwater was rated “good.”

Overall, Lake Erie got a “poor” rating. Lake Ontario and Lake Michigan were rated “fair,” and Lake Superior and Lake Huron “good.”

Some chemicals continue to pose a threat to the health of the Great Lakes basin, but levels of PCBs and Mercury have declined in recent decades.

As for whether watersheds are improving, the report said yes and no. While those in the north are in better health, ecosystems in more heavily populated areas scored poorer.

A second report released on Monday is the Progress Report of the Parties, which describes recent achievements to restore the lakes. It said there’s been significant progress, including removing over 3-million pounds of agricultural and municipal phosphorus from the Lake Erie watershed. Hundreds of projects have been implemented in the past three years.

Canada and the U.S. signed the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement 50 years ago.