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ESI Program Receives Funding from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

MAY 16, 2022 —  Earlier this month, the Environmental Sensitivity Index (ESI) program’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 proposal to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) was approved for funding, allowing OR&R to refresh critical sensitivity data in the Great Lakes and drive the next generation of sensitive resource mapping nationwide. 

ESI Biology map of St Marys River, produced in 2021. Credit: NOAA.

GLRI had previously agreed to provide funding for an update of Lake Ontario, which is set to begin later this year. The ESI program will now receive additional FY22 funding from GLRI to update the ESI dataset for Lake Michigan, and to build an ESI Enterprise Solution. The Lake Michigan datasets were last updated more than 25 years ago and are among the oldest remaining in the nation. Current ESI maps for Lake Michigan are divided into four datasets that date as follows: 

  • 1985 (Eastern) 
  • 1993 (Western)
  • 1994 (North/South)

With this critical funding from GLRI, the Lake Michigan datasets will be updated and combined into a single dataset for the entire lake. Work will commence in 2023, and is projected to finish in early 2025.

With this latest round of funding from GLRI, most of the ESI datasets for the Great Lakes will have been updated since 2019 through partnerships with GLRI and the United States Coast Guard (USCG). Only the datasets for Lakes Superior and Huron (both from 1994) remain to be updated, and they will be the targets of any additional funds in future years.

In addition to updating maps and datasets for the Great Lakes, FY22 GLRI funds will also support the development of an enterprise solution that will elevate ESI products and improve data access and interoperability. This solution will be flexible, adaptable, and cover ESI data across all coastal states and territories. These necessary back-end changes to the ESI system will provide cutting-edge flexibility to the datasets. 

Updating ESI data for the Great Lakes will play a key role in enhancing the effectiveness of the new enterprise solution by providing the data in appropriate formats. Much of the current data for the Great Lakes from the 1980s and 1990s is not digitized, with hand-drawn maps that are difficult to access and not useful in the ERMA® (Environmental Response Management Application) application where many users access ESI data. With new data and an enhanced enterprise database, the ESI program will leap forward into the next generation of sensitivity mapping. 

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Last updated Wednesday, March 29, 2023 3:30pm PDT