The ability for aquatic organisms to move both upstream and downstream is vital to the natural population dynamics of many species of fish, mollusks, insects and other wildlife. More than 180 species of native fish occur in the Great Lakes basin, and many of them such as lake sturgeon, Atlantic salmon, and brook trout, require passage between lakes, large rivers, and their spawning habitat in upstream tributaries to complete their life cycles. Connectivity among aquatic habitats is critical for the health of our waterways as well as the condition of our commercial and recreational fisheries.

Today, however, more than 170,000 dams and road-stream crossings block passage of aquatic organisms in almost all large rivers of the Great Lakes basin, resulting in many Great Lakes fish being unable to access a majority of their historic spawning habitats. In addition, barriers create impoundments and alter flows in ways that often result in increased water temperatures, sediment loads, and damaging floods. These effects not only degrade habitat and water quality for wildlife, they also have detrimental impacts on the human residents of the basin. To address these issues, Sustain Our Great Lakes is helping to remove passage barriers and install passage structures across the basin.

This work is not only generating important benefits for the ecological health of the region, but people in the basin are enjoying the benefits as well. These benefits include improved water quality, a reduced risk of property damage due to flooding, better recreational opportunities, and the economic benefits of improving a fishery valued at more than $7 billion per year.

Since 2006, Sustain Our Great Lakes has:

  • Awarded 75 grants for aquatic connectivity work
  • Invested $23.4 million in connectivity projects
  • Funded elimination of 260 passage barriers
  • Supported reconnection of 1,763 stream miles

For more information on the aquatic connectivity activities supported by Sustain Our Great Lakes , please view our Aquatic Connectivity Fact Sheet.


Resources and References

Please click here to find additional information on critical issues associated with aquatic connectivity restoration in the Great Lakes Basin.



On January 25, 2012, Sustain Our Great Lakes hosted a webinar to explore critical issues associated with restoration of aquatic connectivity in the Great Lakes basin. Drawing from case studies selected to highlight each of these issues, experts will share their experiences and lessons learned.  In addition, the webinar provided information on relevant funding opportunities offered through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Sustain Our Great Lakes. To view the PowerPoint presentations without the webinar recording, please click here.

Restoring Aquatic Connectivity in the Great Lakes Basin Webinar from Sustain Our Great Lakes on Vimeo.

Sign up to receive news & updates from SOGL