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General funding was received through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Current Projects

Lake Michigan Coastal Resilience Initiative – This project provides technical and contract support aimed at building capacity among Great Lakes cities to strengthen coastal resilience and respond to challenges such as shoreline erosion, flooding, and increasingly frequent severe storm events.

Phase 1 included training, technical assistance, and engagement forums with municipal and natural resource managers across the Lake Michigan basin. The focus was to identify site-specific project work and educate local officials on resources, tools, best practices, and engineering options for implementing sustainable solutions to disturbances in coastal areas. NOAA provided coastal training through in-kind support.

Phase 2 includes supporting municipal-scale projects that pursue nature-based shoreline approaches for acute coastal problems. Engineering and design plans (e.g., 60-80 percent construction-ready status plans) are being developed for approximately 10 Lake Michigan sites, with the first two sites being:

  • Lake Michigan, Illinois – Lincoln Park South Lagoon Shoreline Resilience Project
  • Lake Michigan, Michigan – Bayfront East Living Shoreline and Trail Modification

Coastal States Organization Shoreline Assessment and Design Project – Along many Great Lakes shorelines, land use change, shoreline alterations, and coastal infrastructure have resulted in a loss of coastal biodiversity and ecological resilience. Restoration of these shorelines will require an integrated systems approach, applied at scale, to identify place-based nearshore management goals and actions to restore coastal biodiversity and ecological resilience.

To complement ongoing work under the nearshore framework, NOAA partnered with the Coastal States Organization and LimnoTech in 2019-20 to host workshops with coastal programs and other interested parties in all eight Great Lakes coastal states. Each state identified priority projects, from which three were identified as being highest priority and in need of engineering and design work in advance of restoration funding. The three projects for which at least 60 percent designs are now complete:

  • Lake Ontario, New York – Wetland Rehabilitation and Connectivity in Sawmill Cove, Sodus Bay–Shaker Tract
  • Lake Erie, New York – Aquatic Habitat Restoration and Connectivity – Tifft Nature Preserve
  • Lake Superior, Minnesota – Fish Habitat Reconnection in Multiple Watersheds

The Minnesota project has begun construction.

Four additional projects are currently being supported and design plans will be finalized in 2023, they are:

  • Lake Michigan, Michigan - Pentwater River Drowned River Mouth / Coastal Wetland Habitat Restoration
  • Lake Ontario/Niagara River, New York – West River Parkway/Niagara River Shoreline & Aquatic Habitat Restoration
  • Lake Erie, Pennsylvania – Construction and Restoration of Prime Spawning Habitat
  • Lake Michigan, Wisconsin – Peshtigo River Streambank Protection and Enhancement Project

The next round of projects for engineering and design support are currently being identified.

Adapting Living Shorelines to the Great Lakes (Minnesota) – Led by the Minnesota Lake Superior Coastal Program, this project is selecting suitable living shoreline options for four sites along Lake Superior, developing designs, and ultimately will install stabilizing materials, including vegetation, to enhance habitat, maintain recreational opportunities, and reduce erosion. The project team is also creating a native plants guide and monitoring protocols. For more information, contact Minnesota’s Lake Superior Coastal Program.

Illinois Beach State Park Project – This project will collect and process geospatial data to show erosion rates for beach and nearshore areas, as well as the ecosystem value of various habitats within the park. By pairing these data with information on processes such as lake level fluctuations and storms, managers will be able to identify locations and nearshore restoration strategies within the park for habitat protection. Deliverables will include a refined sediment budget for the area and compilation of high-resolution data sets. Existing project data is available through the Illinois State Geological Survey. For more information, contact the Illinois Coastal Management Program.

Collaborative Benthic Habitat Mapping Project – This project is focused on the collection of new high-resolution bathymetry, classification, and mapping of coastal and nearshore benthic habitat to inform natural resource restoration and protection efforts within Lakes Superior, Michigan, and Huron. Deliverables include detailed bathymetry and data applying the Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS). Partners on this project include NOAA (Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science [NCCOS], Office for Coastal Management, Office of Coast Survey, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries), National Park Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Existing project data is available through the NOAA Data Access Viewer and NCCOS BioMapper.

Completed Projects

  • Wisconsin Point Dune Restoration – This project enhanced parking turnouts and beach access points along Wisconsin Point to stop dune deterioration. Additionally, the project addressed shoreline erosion along Allouez Bay.
  • Manoomin Restoration in Lake Superior – This project provided technical assistance to determine restoration efforts for wild rice and monitored its distribution within Lake Superior coastal wetlands. NOAA worked with Lake Superior’s coastal tribal communities to identify six sites distributed across the basin for evaluation within tribal coastal wetlands. These pilot locations will serve as a foundation for future work.
  • Hardened Shorelines Assessment – This project classified the U.S. Great Lakes shoreline segments as either artificial or natural, along with structure type and condition. This data analysis enhanced understanding of the unintended consequences of hardened shoreline to increase recognition of potential systemic issues. Data can also now be used for future modeling efforts, to evaluate projects for future climate resilience, and to prioritize Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding decisions each year.
  • • Manoomin (Wild Rice) Restoration in Lakes Michigan and Huron – This project provided technical assistance to determine restoration efforts for northern wild rice (Z. palustris) and southern wild rice (Z. aquatica) and monitor its current distribution within Lakes Michigan and Huron coastal wetlands, distributed across 12 sites in the basin, for evaluation within tribal coastal wetlands. Deliverables include high-resolution remote sensing data for key manoomin water bodies.

Tools and Regional Data Sets

Lake Level Viewer (U.S. Great Lakes) – This tool provides visuals and information that depict potential lake level changes and impacts.

Land Cover Atlas – This online data viewer provides user-friendly access to regional land cover and land cover change information.

Data Access Viewer – This tool provides access to imagery, land cover, and elevation information that covers the Great Lakes. Find recently collected bathymetry and hyperspectral data within this tool.

Benthic Cover – This resource on Digital Coast provides links to recently collected benthic classification data sets, including those that cover portions of the Great Lakes.


A Guide to Assessing Green Infrastructure Costs and Benefits for Flood Reduction – Follow this six-step approach to assess green infrastructure costs and benefits for flood reduction in your community.

Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program in the Great Lakes – This program provides matching funds to state and local governments to purchase threatened coastal and estuarine lands or obtain conservation easements. Find out more about the program.

Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration – This project developed criteria for land and water management to sustain healthy aquatic ecosystems through the completion of a flow-ecology model analysis of Minnesota tributaries in the Lake Superior basin.

Economic Assessment – Learn about the economic benefits of green infrastructure and find information on a suite of stormwater management practices.

Great Lakes Elevation Data – View elevation data for parts of Lake Superior, and then explore the U.S. Interagency Elevation Inventory for data available from other sources.

Great Lakes Land Cover Change Report – See how the Great Lakes coastal region has changed from 1996 to 2010 with this presentation of key findings.

Great Lakes Partnership Case Study – Learn how collaboration can aid in climate change and resilience planning.

Great Lakes Resilience Planning Guide – Discover resources on hazards and climate change to help communicate these coastal issues.

Land Cover Change Report – Discover how the Lake Michigan basin has changed from 1985 to 2010 with this presentation of key findings.

Stories from the Field – Read about Great Lakes projects that used Digital Coast data, tools, and resources to get the job done. Explore “Focus Area” categories to learn more.

Technical Reports – Find reports on using a needs assessment to plan for climate change and adapting to climate change in the Great Lakes Basin.

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