Introducing: Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative works to advance the protection of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River through policy.


Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

Who Are They?

The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative) is a binational coalition of over 200 municipal and regional U.S. and Canadian mayors and local officials working to advance the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River. Member cities work together with other orders of government and stakeholders to improve infrastructures, programs, and services and increase investments in protection and restoration work. Overall, the hope is to get mayors engaged and inform the public, collaborate with all orders of government, and work with other sectors to advocate for stewardship of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.

In addition to working with mayors and local officials, the Cities Initiative works in partnership on many Great Lakes issues with the International Joint Commission, the Great Lakes Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Environment Canada, state agencies, provincial ministries, and basin-wide non-governmental organizations, including the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the Council of Great Lakes Governors, and Healing our Waters Coalition.

How Does the Cities Initiative Support Coastal Resilience?

The Cities Initiative has the following current initiatives and resources that support building more resilient coastal communities: 

Lake Michigan Coastal Resilience Initiative

This initiative provides training, technical assistance, and funding to municipalities to support the development of nature-based solutions to mitigate the impact of coastal hazards such as erosion, flooding, and severe storm events. The initiative has already provided a series of training webinars on implementing nature-based solutions, followed by a call for project ideas from municipalities. Representatives of these projects then participated in forums to refine their proposed projects to be considered for funding to support engineering and design. As a result, two projects were selected for initial engineering and design funding support, and additional phases of the initiative will occur in the future. The Cities Initiative is partnering with NOAA on this project.

Climate Change Adaptation

This initiative provides municipalities with the tools to adapt infrastructure and operations to a changing climate. The Climate Ready Infrastructure and Strategic Sites Protocol provides municipalities with a simplified method for assessing the vulnerability of municipal assets to extreme weather. The Climate Ready Cities Toolkit is a set of case studies and a toolkit of resource materials on climate adaptation and readiness. The materials include a series of webinars, infographics, and GIS maps illustrating Great Lakes communities’ vulnerability to climate change.

Products from the University of Michigan Coastal Resilience Research Project

The Cities Initiative was a co-client for a research project completed in Spring 2022 by master’s students at the University of Michigan to understand the current landscape of Great Lakes coastal resources and assistance. Two products of this research project are the Coastal Funding and Coastal Resources Libraries. The Coastal Funding Library is a funding resource database that supports coastal resilience in the Great Lakes region. This resource is currently relevant for the 2021-2023 funding years, but it could be a starting place for identifying funding opportunities. The Coastal Resources Library is a resource database that supports coastal resilience projects in the Great Lakes region.

Best Practices Library

The Best Practices Library is a searchable database of best practices for Great Lakes issues by topic and region. For example, there are two topic categories for coastal resilience: Climate Change: Adaptation Plans and Climate Change: Adaption Tools and Guides.

Connect with the Cities Initiative

The Cities Initiative is an active supporter of coastal communities addressing coastal hazards and becoming more resilient. Visit their website to learn more about their work on coastal resilience and additional Great Lakes issues and topics not covered here.

Check out information on becoming a member if you are a mayor or local official interested in your municipality joining the coalition.