Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Platform 101

Business, industry, and conservation leaders are joining with mayors and state officials in urging the 2016 presidential candidates to commit to restoring and protecting the Great Lakes—a resource that provides drinking water to more than 30 million people. Millions more depend on the lakes for their public health, jobs, and way of life.

The groups are putting forward a “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Platform,” asking candidates to affirm their commitment to protect and restore the Great Lakes. The platform is being sent to all candidates still in the race.

What is the “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Platform”?
Who are the groups behind the platform?
What are you asking candidates to commit to specifically?
Why is this important?
Will you be supporting any of the candidates?
Why is this important to business and industry?
Why now?
What have other presidents done for the Great Lakes?
Does the U.S. Congress support federal restoration efforts?
Have federal Great Lakes restoration efforts been successful?
What if candidates don’t support the platform?
What’s next?

What is the “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Platform”?

A view of Michigan's sleeping bear dunes in the distance. Credit National Park Service.

A view of Michigan’s sleeping bear dunes in the distance. Credit National Park Service.

The platform lays out concrete actions the next president can take to support federal efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The platform asks candidates to invest in the region’s drinking water, sewage, and maritime infrastructure, as well as efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff pollution and fight invasive species like Asian carp. These efforts are needed to restore and protect the Great Lakes. Read the platform here.

Who are the groups behind the platform?

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, Council of Great Lakes Industries, Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, Great Lakes Commission, and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative. These groups have worked together for more than 10 years to make Great Lakes restoration a national priority. The groups represent mayors, chambers of commerce, industry and manufacturing, state officials, and environmental and conservation organizations. The diverse set of stakeholders underscores how important the Great Lakes are to the region’s environment and economy. Read more about each of our partners below, or click here to jump to the end of the page.

What are you asking candidates to commit to specifically?

We’re asking candidates to commit to concrete actions that can help keep federal Great Lakes restoration efforts on track. These include:

  • Supporting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $300 million per year;
  • Supporting the implementation of an agreement by the region’s governors and the premier of Ontario to reduce nutrient runoff into Western Lake Erie by 40 percent by 2025 to curb harmful algal blooms;
  • Supporting federal investments in infrastructure necessary to reduce sewage overflows, protect drinking water and preserve opportunities for recreation and tourism; and,
  • Supporting infrastructure investments to maintain and improve locks, ports, harbors and other maritime assets.

 

Why is this important?

Freighter outside of Duluth, Minn. Photo credit: Mark H. Clabaugh.

Freighter outside of Duluth, Minn. Photo credit: Mark H. Clabaugh.

The Great Lakes supply drinking water to more than 40 million people in the United States and Canada. And millions more depend on them for their jobs and way of life. But the work of protecting and restoring the Great Lakes must continue. Sewage overflows close beaches. Legacy contamination impacts water quality and affects the vitality of coastal communities. And invasive species and habitat destruction undermine the region’s outdoor recreation economy. The recent drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., and 2014 harmful algal bloom in western Lake Erie that tainted drinking water for more than 400,000 people, underscore the need to invest in clean water in the Great Lakes region—and throughout the country. The good news is that there are solutions. And it’s going to take a sustained commitment to restore this vital resource for people now and generations to come.

 

Will you be supporting any of the candidates?

No. The groups putting out the Great Lakes Platform will not endorse or oppose any candidate. We believe that every presidential candidate has the opportunity to stand up for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life. The goal is for the next occupant of the White House to champion Great Lakes restoration and protection.

 

Why is this important to business and industry?

The Great Lakes are the foundation of the region’s economy. The Great Lakes create a unique competitive advantage for the region, which accounts for nearly one-third of combined U.S. and Canadian economic activity. More than 1.2 million people have jobs that are connected to the Great Lakes, generating more than $62 billion in wages annually. The more than 35 million people who boat, fish, hunt, and view wildlife in the region generate over $33 billion annually. The regional maritime sector directly contributes more than $30 billion to the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs. Restoring the Great Lakes will help sustain companies that already operate here and will drive the revitalization of the region.

 

Why now?

An official collects a sample from a toxic algal bloom. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University.

An official collects a sample from a toxic algal bloom. Photo credit: Michigan Technological University.

A lot of work remains. And we need a commitment from the highest levels of government that the nation will maintain its commitment to the lakes and see the job through. The drinking water crisis in Flint, Mich., and the harmful algal bloom in Lake Erie in 2014 which poisoned the drinking water for more than 400,000 people in and around Toledo, Ohio, remind us that many threats remain. For example, the U.S. EPA estimates that the eight Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York need more than $77 billion over the next 20 years to fix old sewers. Further, many toxic hotspots remain around the region that are responsible for drinking water restrictions, beach closures, and fish consumption advisories. Our work is not done until we’ve put an end to those threats.

 

What have other presidents done for the Great Lakes?

Presidential leadership has been a vital part of the national effort to restore the Great Lakes. President George W. Bush galvanized support for Great Lakes restoration by bringing the region together in 2004 to craft a plan to protect and restore the Great Lakes. President Barack Obama pledged to fund that plan and has since, in collaboration with the U.S. Congress, invested more than $2 billion in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That’s why we need the next president to stand and deliver for the Great Lakes.

 

Does the U.S. Congress support federal restoration efforts?

Yes. Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress have supported federal Great Lakes restoration efforts. In a time of intense partisan gridlock, members of Congress from both parties have supported federal restoration efforts.

 

Have federal Great Lakes restoration efforts been successful?

The city of Chicago overlooks these Northerly Island wildflowers. The plants provide habitat for native wildlife. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The city of Chicago overlooks these Northerly Island wildflowers. The plants provide habitat for native wildlife. Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Yes. Over the last seven years, the federal government has invested over $2.2 billion in more than 2,900 projects that have been producing results in communities around the region. These projects are putting people to work now while laying the foundation for long term prosperity. Studies indicate that every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration produces at least $2 of economic benefit—with some studies suggesting the return on investment is closer to 6-to-1 in the form of increased property values, tourism, and tax revenue. Investments in the revitalization of the Great Lakes offer some of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget.

 

What if candidates don’t support the platform?

The nation cannot afford to scale back revitalizing restoration efforts now, because the problems will only be more complicated and expensive the longer we wait. The Great Lakes will not recover on their own. The threats facing them—from sewage overflows to invasive species—will persist. And the costs of addressing the threats will only increase, hampering the economic recovery of the region. That’s why we are urging candidates to continue the federal government’s successful restoration initiative.

 

What’s next?

We look forward to engaging with presidential candidates and their campaign staff to discuss the importance of the Great Lakes to the region’s environment and economy. Candidates are heading to Great Lakes states – Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana – and we want to make sure that Great Lakes restoration is an issue that candidates discuss when visiting the region now and through the general election.

 

Groups releasing the “Great Lakes Protection and Restoration Presidential Platform” include:

Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 130 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. For more information visit http://www.healthylakes.org Follow us on twitter @healthylakes.

 

Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition

Nearly 40 chambers of commerce representing more than 150,000 businesses comprise the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition. Working together, we are dedicated to forging a strategic partnership between the Great Lakes region and the federal government. The coalition seeks to leverage our area’s historic strengths in manufacturing, research and innovation to maximize investment and job creation that will benefit the entire country. To learn more visit http://greatlakesmetrochambers.com/

 

Council of Great Lakes Industries

The mission of the Council of Great Lakes Industries is to promote the economic growth and vitality of the region in harmony with its human and natural resources (sustainable development). CGLI is a tax-exempt organization representing the common interests of U.S. and Canadian industries that have significant assets in the Great Lakes basin. CGLI works to ensure that industry is a substantive partner in the public policy development process in the Great Lakes region. To learn more visit http://cgli.org/

 

Great Lakes Commission

Great Lakes Commission, led by Chairman Jon Allan, is an interstate compact agency established under 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 governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials 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 program involving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Mich. Learn more at http://www.glc.org.

 

Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative

The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a bi-national coalition of over 120 mayors, collectively representing over 17 million people, who work together to protect, restore and promote the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence basin. http://glslcities.org/

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