As the world’s largest freshwater lake by surface area, protection of Lake Superior’s ecosystems is a high priority for environmentalists, particularly in bordering states like Michigan and Minnesota.
It’s not surprising, therefore, that the Saint Paul-based Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy (MCEA) is doing work on threats to Lake Superior's water quality. Or to the see the Mott Foundation, a major defender of the Great Lakes, backing this effort.
Mott first funded MCEA's work on Lake Superior in 2012 with a $150,000 grant to study how sulfide ore mining projects might affect the lake and its related waterways. Now it has laid out a grant of the same size to look at other threats to Lake Superior.
The lake, which is currently at its highest level in 15 years following the brutal northern winter, faces multiple pressures to its ecosystem: from vacationers, homeowners, recreational users and industry. All the more so because development and human activity along the lake doesn't always comply with federal and state laws.
One of the key pieces of legislation at play is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act, which hasn't been fully enforced. MCEA plans to push Minnesota's state government to do a better job here and also improve its wetlands policies. Further, it plans to help those municipalities bordering the lake to update their own water protection practices as well as help stop one of the major problems affecting local ecosystems: the spread of invasive species.
That sounds like a heavy lift, but MCEA is as well-positioned as anyone to take it on, with an expert staff that includes lawyers and water experts. Given the conflicting interests and range of jurisdictions involved, MCEA will no doubt also need to draw on its state commitment to “working across all sectors, private and public, profit and nonprofit, political and academic” to succeed.