Great Lakes rivers and streams provide habitat for a vast assemblage of fish, mollusks, insects and other wildlife. Many fish, like the imperiled redside dace and eastern sand darter, use tributaries for all stages of their life cycles. Other fish species, like coaster brook trout and lake sturgeon, may use them only as spawning and nursery habitat. In all cases, however, healthy tributaries are necessary to sustain populations of these and many other species. In addition, rivers and streams in the basin provide drinking water for millions of people, are conduits for nutrient transfer, and provide opportunities for economically important activities such as boating and angling.

Past and present land uses have degraded many of the rivers and streams in the basin by reducing base flows, increasing artificially high peak flows, altering water temperatures, enabling establishment of invasive species, accelerating bank erosion, smothering stream substrates with sediment, and disrupting the downstream transport of large woody debris. In addition to having negative impacts on fish and wildlife populations, these changes have led to increased risks of property damage due to flooding and degradation of drinking water quality. The stream and riparian restoration activities supported by Sustain Our Great Lakes are creating significant benefits for the ecological health of the basin. Projects funded by the program are restoring more-natural flow rates and water temperatures, improving habitat structure and complexity, reducing bank erosion, and decreasing sediment loading. As a result of this work, residents of the basin are enjoying improved water quality, better recreational opportunities, and healthier fish populations that support a multi-billion dollar fishing industry.

Since 2006, Sustain Our Great Lakes has:

  • Awarded 110 grants for stream & riparian work
  • Invested $22 million in restoration projects
  • Funded 201 miles of stream & riparian habitat restoration

For more information on the stream and riparian restoration activities supported by Sustain Our Great Lakes, please view our Stream and Riparian Habitat Fact Sheet.


Resources and References

Please click here to find additional information on critical issues associated with stream and riparian habitat restoration in the Great Lakes Basin.



On January 22, 2013, Sustain Our Great Lakes hosted a webinar focused on stream restoration in the Great Lakes basin. Experts featured four case studies to illustrate how natural channel design and in-stream structures are being used to improve stream habitat across the basin. In addition, the webinar provided information on relevant funding opportunities. The webinar recording is approximately 2 hours. To view the PowerPoint presentations without the webinar recording, please click here.

Stream Restoration in the Great Lakes Basin Webinar from Sustain Our Great Lakes on Vimeo.

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