GLRI Focus Area 3: Nearshore

The Great Lakes’ 10,000-plus miles of coastline provide millions of beachgoers with recreational opportunities, support 158 coastal counties, and serve as an economic engine for the region. Unfortunately, this coastline, including its beaches, watersheds, and nearshore waters, is highly vulnerable to pollution. Excessive nutrient loading, agricultural and stormwater runoff, industrial pollution, and wildlife waste all degrade water quality. Bacteria and other pathogens can threaten both human health and the integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem. For this reason, the GLRI Action Plan III has identified nearshore health and protection of watersheds from polluted runoff as one of five issues requiring urgent attention.

Read on to learn about NOAA’s work in this Focus Area:

Decision support tools for nutrients and Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs)

GLRI funds have helped NOAA to monitor phosphorus loading and develop models that forecast the locations of HABs, in turn giving resource managers the tools to make more timely actions to protect human health. This includes the HAB Data Explorer.


Empowering communities with online action planning tools: Tipping points and indicators for improving water quality across the Great Lakes

GLRI funds are supporting a collaboration among NOAA’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory (GLERL), the Cooperative Institute for Great Lakes Research (CIGLR), and multiple Great Lakes universities to identify “tipping points” of ecosystem health. Scientific research has identified the stressors that multiple Great Lakes resources, ranging from watersheds to high-priority fish species, can withstand and remain functional. Beyond these thresholds, or “tipping points,” ecosystem function is severely impaired. 

Contacts: and

Piloting green infrastructure best management practices at clean marinas in the western Lake Erie basin

Michigan Sea Grant and Ohio Sea Grant, the co-leaders of the Great Lakes Clean Marina Network, are developing an interactive decision support tool complete with 3-D renderings and 360 video as part of the existing Ideal Clean Marina visualization map. This tool will help marinas and the Great Lakes state Clean Marina Program staff prioritize green infrastructure for current and future scenarios.

Contact: Mike Fraker, Michigan Sea Grant,

Runoff risk decision support

The runoff risk concept was initiated by state request to meet state agency and farmer/producer needs for real-time actionable guidance on when to not apply nutrients to agricultural fields. Relying on National Weather Service (NWS) modeling, runoff risk tools inform farming managers of unfavorable forecast conditions where runoff could transport freshly applied nutrients off fields and into nearby waterbodies. Edge-of-field monitoring has indicated that application timing is an important factor on water quality.



See also: Nearshore: Completed projects