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by Ralph Bednarz, MWA Director and NALMS Region 5 Director

The Michigan Waterfront Alliance (MWA) Board is excited to share with you some information about an advocacy campaign for restoring funding to, and enhancing Section 314 of the Clean Water Act (CWA), formerly known as the Clean Lakes Program.

When the Clean Water Act (CWA) was enacted in 1972, Congress explicitly acknowledged the importance of healthy lakes in Section 314. This voluntary Clean Lakes Program provided funds to help assess the water quality of lakes in a state or tribal jurisdiction, conduct diagnostic feasibility studies to identify the causes of pollution in the lake, implement projects to mitigate the problems, and carry out post-restoration monitoring studies. The Clean Lakes Program awarded $145 million in grants through 1995. But Congress has appropriated no funds for the Clean Lakes Program since 1995, even though 45% of the nation’s lakes continue to be in poor condition as a result of nutrient enrichment and other stressors, according to the most recent National Lakes Assessment .

Michigan was awarded a lake classification grant in 1980 which supported the state’s inland lakes water quality monitoring and assessment program. In addition to the lake classification grant support, Michigan was awarded 16 individual project grants: seven Diagnostic-Feasibility Studies (Phase I) awards, eight Restoration and Protection Implementation Projects (Phase II) awards, and one Post-Restoration Monitoring Studies (Phase III) award, during the time period of the Section 314 Clean Lakes Program financial assistance.

Another important part of the CWA is Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program that was established in the 1987 Amendments to the Act. Since 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been providing financial support to states and tribes through Section 319 grants to implement their nonpoint source management programs.

The EPA has encouraged states and tribes to use Section 319 funds to support the Clean Lakes Program work previously funded under Section 314. The use of Section 319 funds to support lakes-related projects varies widely by state and tribes but it has been reported in the range of 5-19%, far less than needed to keep the nation’s lakes healthy. Michigan does not track individual lake watershed projects supported with Section 319 grant funds.

Significant new funding needs to be allocated to support a coordinated effort to address the many threats to lake water quality and prevent further deterioration of existing healthy lakes.

The North American Lakes Management Society (NALMS) has been developing the elements of an advocacy campaign related to restoring funding to Section 314 of the CWA to once again allow for diagnostic-feasibility studies to be conducted on lakes across the country and to enhance the Clean Lakes Program by including funding for preservation and protection efforts for high quality waters.

NALMS recommends:

  • Congress reauthorizes funding for the Section 314 Clean Lakes Program and significantly increases annual appropriations over previous funding levels.
  • Revising the implementation of the Clean Lakes Program by adding a Healthy Lakes component to protect high quality lakes and prioritize lakes with significant cultural heritage value and lakes in communities where there are environmental justice concerns.
  • Evaluation of existing programs like Section 319 Nonpoint Source Program, Healthy Watersheds, Urban Waters and 106 Monitoring Program to identify additional opportunities to advance lake restoration and protection.

The NALMS 314 Working Group is taking the lead in developing materials to communicate with partner organizations and has engaged a college student intern for developing public outreach materials centered on the importance of the Clean Lakes Program and the value of lakes to the National, state and local economies, and the American way of life. The intent is for these materials to be used by lake advocates across the country to campaign for restoring funding to, and enhancing Section 314 of the CWA.


  • Fact sheets, brochures and other informational resources geared to stakeholder groups related to this effort, and recommendations for mobilizing stakeholders.
  • Packaged slideshows with narration for various audiences.
  • A survey for state agencies and their collaborators on what is needed at the state level if funding is re-appropriated.
  • A template letter for constituents to use in contacting their congressional representatives to express their support for re-funding and enhancing Section 314 of the Clean Water Act.

To learn more background behind the NALMS 314 Working Group efforts, visit the NALMS Enhanced 314 Clean Lakes Program position statement.