Observing system to support Great Lakes management decisions

Ann Arbor, Mich. — A valuable tool for keeping tabs on a wide range of conditions in the Great Lakes is now under development through a cooperative effort by the Great Lakes Commission and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Over the next 12 months, the Great Lakes Commission will coordinate the development of an integrated Great Lakes Observing System (GLOS). Supported through a $109,000 grant from the NOAA Coastal Services Center, the effort is one of more than a dozen regional observing systems that are being developed as part of NOAA’s multi-year, national Integrated Ocean Observing System initiative.

“We’re really excited about the potential of this new data-sharing initiative and the many applications it offers to users in the Great Lakes region,” said Paul Scholz, chief of Coastal Management Services for NOAA. “By coordinating data collection and reporting, this system will greatly enhance decisionmaking related to resource management, commercial and recreational uses of the lakes, and public safety.”

The Integrated Ocean Observing System is a coordinated national and international network of observations, data management and analysis that systematically acquires and disseminates data and information on the past, present and future states of the oceans and coastal zones, including the Great Lakes. Regional associations of major stakeholders (data providers and users) are being established to develop products and services tailored to the unique needs of each region and to design, implement and operate coastal observing systems that meet these needs.

To date in the Great Lakes region, multiple independent systems have been created to collect, transmit, store, retrieve and provide access to physical, chemical and limnologic data. These include, among others, meteorologic observation networks operated by the U.S. National Weather Service and Environment Canada, as well as lake level, interconnecting waterway and St. Lawrence River water level and streamflow gauges operated by the National Ocean Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Information integration efforts began on a regional level in the 1990s, built around the Commission-managed Great Lakes Information Network (GLIN). These efforts have provided substantial benefits to the region, with large numbers of users accessing the information. NOAA’s additional investment will allow for full integration of many disparate observations in a cohesive, “one-stop-shopping” web locale.

The web site will provide critical real-time data for multiple users, including resource managers, hazardous spill responders, municipal water system managers, homeland security interests, the commercial shipping industry, the recreational boating community, dredging operators and sport fishing interests.

The first year of the project will focus on developing a business plan outlining the requisite steps for creating a regional association based upon collective partnerships of agencies, institutions and stakeholders. The business plan will propose governance for the regional association of data providers, operational characteristics of the Great Lakes Observing System, and funding mechanisms to sustain data collection and transmission networks, information integration and retrieval, modeling and analyses, and communications and outreach. The effort will be coordinated with the International Joint Commission’s Council of Great Lakes Research Managers, as well as a range of federal, state and provincial agencies, academic institutions, and relevant nongovernmental organizations.

Program leads at the Great Lakes Commission include Roger Gauthier, manager of Data and Information Management, gauthier@glc.org; and Christine Manninen, manager of Communications and Internet Technology, manninen@glc.org.

For immediate release: October 16, 2003


The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Samuel W. Speck (Ohio), is a nonpartisan, binational compact agency created by state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes – St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of state legislators, agency officials, and governors’ appointees from its eight member states.Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer programinvolving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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