Great Lakes, Fishery, Fish, Ecosystem, Restoration, GLFER, Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration Program, Fishery Commission, Section 506, Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, USACE, Corps of Engineers,

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Great Lakes Fishery & Ecosystem Restoration Program

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Program Implementation

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The Water Resources Development Act of 2000 authorized the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program, which authorizes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to plan, implement, and evaluate projects supporting the restoration of the fishery, ecosystem, and beneficial uses of the Great Lakes. Projects that have restored fish and wildlife habitat, removed dams and other barriers to fish migration, prevented and controlled non-native invasive species, and eliminated beneficial use impairments in Areas of Concern have been implemented under the authority.

The authorization specifies that the authorization would actively involve signatories to A Joint Strategic Plan for Management of Great Lakes Fisheries (Joint Strategic Plan), which are state, provincial, tribal, and federal fisheries management agencies. As such, the Council of Lake Committees, a group of senior fishery managers representing the eight Great Lakes states, the province of Ontario, and the U.S. tribes, formed the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program Project Review Committee. This Project Review Committee is responsible for assisting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers soliciting and reviewing proposals, making recommendations for consideration for funding, and assisting in developing and implementing selected projects.

The GLFER Project Review Committee consists of 13 members, including representatives from each of the state Departments of Natural Resources, representatives from the Chippewa-Ottawa Resource Authority, Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission, and the 1854 Treaty Authority, as well as the US Fish and Wildlife Services or US Geological Survey and two representatives from non-Joint Strategic Plan organizations. The GLFER Project Review Committee meets bi-annually to evaluate proposals and facilitate project implementation.

Eligible projects are those that involve the restoration of aquatic and riparian habitats that may promote the natural reproduction and stability of fish communities as well as those that may aid in the control of the introduction or spread of invasive species in the Great Lakes.


Non-federal sponsors must submit an application as a statement in their intent to participate in supporting the project and acknowledging its financial responsibilities in the study and project.

Non-Federal sponsors may include state, tribal, or local entities, or non-government organizations (NGO).

For example, state departments such as the Department of Natural Resources, tribal groups such as the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan or may be local municipalities such as the city of Chicago, Illinois or other local entities such as forest preserve districts, park districts, school districts, conservation groups, or other non-government organizations including the Great Lakes Fishery Commission.


Eligible projects may be those that improve and protect wetlands, tributaries & associated riparian zones, reefs, shoreline habitat, connecting waterways to the Great Lakes, water quality and quantity, and other physical and biological components that promote healthy and productive fish communities in the Great Lakes.

Eligible projects can include compatible recreational features in the design and construction, however federal costs of such features cannot exceed 10% of the total federal costs.

Over view of the Harpersfield Dam GLFER project. Cross section view of the Harpersfield Dam upgrades.

The barrier construction project for the Harpersfield Dam in Ohio was proposed to prevent sea lamprey passage and reproduction from approximately 1,266 miles upstream of the dam on the Grand River and its tributaries. The project also anticipated lowering the overall sea lamprey population in Lake Erie, which in turn improves the sustainability of valuable fisheries resources. This project was awarded a contract and completed in 2018.


Projects must be within the Great Lakes basin and must be projects that support the restoration of the Great Lakes fishery, ecosystem, or to restore beneficial uses of the Great Lakes.


The total project cost must be less than $15 million but may not exceed $10 million of federal dollars.

Suitability Criteria & Confirming Eligibility

If the project meets the suitability criteria below and the applicant is an eligible non-Federal sponsor, the district would confirm the eligibility of the proposed project, and the district would forward the collected project information to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission or their designee

(1) Address one or more of the Program Objectives

(2) Involve planning, design, and construction activities where USACE’s expertise would significantly aid in project completion

(3) Be consistent with USACE policy

(4) Have a problem and potential solution that is well documented to allow rapid movement towards implementation, or be an innovative solution to a persistent Great Lakes problem

In order to apply for funding through the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program, an applicant needs to have:

  1. An initial idea (or more) for a structural project to support the restoration of the Great Lakes fishery, ecosystem, or to restore beneficial uses of the Great Lakes,
  2. A project idea that meets USACE suitability criteria for eligible projects, including total project costs of <$15 million
  3. A non-federal sponsor, which agrees to cost-share the project at a rate of 65% (federal):35% (non-federal).  A non-federal sponsor can be a public or tribal entity, a non-governmental organization, or certain private entities. 
  4. A non-federal sponsor that owns (or is able to acquire) the land for project implementation and be willing to move land ownership to USACE during project implementation.  Land ownership will revert back to non-federal sponsor(s) or individuals after project completion. 
  5. And lastly, a non-federal sponsor that is willing to commit to operation and maintenance of the project post-completion.

What is Cost Sharing?

Cost-sharing means that USACE and the non-federal sponsor will partner to share the costs of project feasibility, design, and implementation.  The USACE will pay for 65% of the total project costs, while the non-federal sponsor will pay for 35% of the total project costs.  Cost-sharing can include both contributions of cash to complete the project, and in-kind contributions, however, contribution of cash or in-kind cannot be federally provided funds.  For GLFER projects, two cost-share agreements are required:

  1. Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement in which details study task responsibilities, descriptions, and milestones, as well as study timelines, study costs, and cost-sharing arrangements
  2. Project Partnership Agreement in which the USACE and the agree to the project description, responsibilities of the parties, milestones, and cost-sharing when implementing the project (design and construction)

Non-federal cost shares can include in-kind contributions up to 100% of the non-federal sponsor shares.  Several items are eligible for in-kind contributions.  Examples of in-kind contributions for the Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement include:

  1. Preparation of portions of the feasibility study
  2. Environmental Assessments and Compliance document preparation
  3. Technical data collection (e.g. surveys, mapping, geotechnical)
  4. Conceptual design, hydraulic modeling costs

Examples of in-kind contributions for the Project Partnership Agreement include:

  1. Value of Real Estate (Land, Easements, Right of Way, Relocation, and Disposal)
  2. Engineering/design documentation
  3. Technical data (environmental, economic, etc.)
  4. Historical property survey and evaluation
  5. Construction activities

All in-kind contributions must be identified prior to signing Feasibility Cost Sharing Agreement or the Project Partnership Agreements.  USACE staff will work with the non-federal sponsor to identify, define, and coordinate in-kind contributions prior to each phase of the project and capture those in the respective agreements.

Graphic of the Section 506 Project life-cycle

Requests are submitted through a formal letter to the Commander of the District in which your proposed project resides.  Below is a template letter.


In accordance with the provisions of the Great Lakes Fishery and Ecosystem Restoration Program (GLFER), (Name of Agency or Community), requests the Corps of Engineers assistance in (describe the reason for the request). We request that the Corps investigate the possibility of preparing a feasibility study under its GLFER Authority, Section 506 of the Water Resources Development Act of 1996, as amended, to formulate a restoration plan.

We believe this project would restore (type of benefits, e.g. wetlands, fish habitat). We understand that the study will investigate alternative solutions to identify a plan to restore or create aquatic and ecologically related habitats. We intend to pursue budgetary actions so that funds will be available to meet our cost sharing requirements at the time needed by the Corps to advertise a construction contract.

The Feasibility Phase is federally funded up to $100,000.  We understand that the cost share arrangement above the initial $100,000 for feasibility is 65% Federal and 35% local and that there is a 65% Federal and 35% local cost share requirement for design and construction, which could include in-kind services.  However, our ability to commit to that future cost share is dependent upon preliminary designs, plans, and actual cost estimates.

We understand the sponsors would be responsible for removal of all hazardous, toxic, and radioactive wastes prior to any construction and for the operation, maintenance, repair, rehabilitation, and replacement of the project after it is completed. 

We are aware that this letter serves as an expression of intent and is not a contractual obligation and that either party may discontinue the study process at any stage prior to construction.

The (name of agency or community) has designated (name of local contact at agency and phone number) as the point of contact for this project.


Agency Official

GLFER Contacts

GLFER Program Manager

Steven Check, PMP
Detroit District USACE
(313) 226-2074


Michael Greer
Buffalo District USACE
(716) 879-4229


Jim Luke
Detroit District USACE
(313) 226-2074 


Gene Fleming
Chicago District USACE
(312) 846-5585