People around the Great Lakes might not like their tax dollars heading off to Washington each year, but this year a good portion of those dollars are expected to come back home. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would provide at least $400 million to help clean up and restore the Great Lakes. The investment is based on economists’ predictions that restoration can jump start the region’s economy while paying for itself – it would be a 2-to-1 investment.
Ohio resident Calvin Jefferson and his family were heading to the lake for the afternoon when he told WKYC, “I’d pay to get $2 dollars back for a $1 investment if it’s something worth it, like the beaches here.”
That same day, Healing Our Waters held an event in downtown Cleveland to highlight the GLRI and US Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said, “This federal money just makes great sense. Investing in the Great Lakes region is an important way to promote economic development.”
The GLRI was first proposed by President Obama in his budget and then subsequently approved of by the US House; it is now awaiting a vote in the US Senate. The one-year initiative focuses on four areas by setting aside $147 million to clean up toxic substances, $97 million for near-shore health and non-point pollution, $60 million to fight invasive species and $105 million is dedicated to habitat and wildlife restoration. The hope is that it will be renewed each year over the next half decade.
Another big problem in the Great Lakes is sewage. Our region’s antique combined storm and sewer system, built way too long ago and not adequately maintained, is a major polluter in our Lakes. In fact, when the total cost of restoration was calculated at $26 billion the majority of that money was intended for new sewer and water infrastructure projects. However, the federal government injected money for sewer overhaul and upkeep into the economic stimulus package. There has also been talk of increasing annual funding for the State Revolving Fund which is the traditional vehicle for paying for water infrastructure projects. The GLRI will focus on other problems in the Great Lakes.
”It (GLRI funding) really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we don’t want it to get messed up,” the Ohio Environmental Council’s Kristy Meyer told the Akron Beacon Journal at HOW’s Cleveland meeting. ”We feel responsible and we want to make sure the money is spent wisely.”
The Healing Our Waters campaign to promote passage of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and economic recovery in the Great Lakes region will travel now to Milwaukee on August 10, Toledo on August 17 and then Detroit on August 19.