Great Lakes: A National Treasure Requiring National Attention

With nearly 20 percent of the Earth’s fresh surface water, the Great Lakes are one of our country’s most magnificent natural treasures. The Great Lakes provide drinking water to 28 million U.S. residents. Recreation is a $6 billion industry region wide. And more than 150,000 Americans work in the Lakes’ shipping industry, which provides passage for approximately 180 million tons of cargo annually.

Photo courtesy of Tom Rohrer

In July 2003, the U.S. Congress, reflecting a Joyce Foundation-sponsored poll which found 96 percent of Midwesterners support better Great Lakes protections, introduced bipartisan legislation calling for $4 to $6 billion in funding to protect drinking water, reduce pollution, and rehabilitate coastal habitat for fish and wildlife.

Ecological Threats, Economic Impacts

The Great Lakes face ecological threats that jeopardize the region’s economy and the quality of life of millions of residents. In introducing H.R. 2720 in the House of Representatives and S. 1398 in the Senate, Congress recognizes that damage inflicted over the last century can no longer be passed on to future generations. Considered the Great Lakes’ “Marshall Plan,” the legislation will help address a number of problems that will become more costly over time, including:

  • Shutting the door on invasive species that threaten recreation and the region’s native fish, wildlife and plants.
  • Protecting against coastal pollution and sewage overflows that close beaches and ban swimming.
  • Cutting toxic pollution so that residents can eat local fish without health risks, including pregnant women and children.
  • Rebuilding fish and wildlife habitat enjoyed by the region’s many anglers, boaters, bird watchers and hunters.

A Reasonable Investment

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

A restoration project on the scale needed to save the Great Lakes demands comprehensive and coordinated federal action. In recent years, Congress has provided much-needed funding to restore and protect some of the country’s greatest wildlife sanctuaries, including Chesapeake Bay ($7 billion), the Florida Everglades ($8 billion), and San Francisco Bay ($2 billion). Restoring the Great Lakes will require a similar commitment. Four to $6 billion to tackle a number of threats is a wise, but conservative investment to restore this national treasure.

Bipartisan, national leadership

One hundred twenty-two members of the House and Senate, 69 Democrats, 52 Republicans, and one Independent, support Great Lakes Restoration and are working with governors, mayors, and others to honor their pledge to restore the Great Lakes.

Richard Durbin (D), Peter Fitzgerald (R), Rahm Emanuel (D), Danny Davis (D), Mark Kirk (R), Mark Dayton (D), Arlen Specter (R), Ray LaHood (R), Donald Manzullo (R), Janice Schakowsky (D), John Shimkus (R), Bobby Rush (D), William Lipinski (D), Jesse Jackson Jr. (D), Luis Gutierrez (D), Lane Evans (D), Timothy Johnson (R), Richard Lugar (R), Evan Bayh (R), Baron Hill (D), Mark Souder (R), Chris Chocola (R), Julia Carson (D), Dan Burton (R), Carl Levin (D), Debbie Stabenow (D), Dave Camp (R), John Conyers, Jr. (D), Vernon Ehlers (R), Dale Kildee (D), Sander Levin (D), Mike Rogers (R), Fred Upton (R), Bart Stupak (D), Thaddeus McCotter (R), Carolyn Kilpatrick (D), Peter Hoekstra (R), John Dingell (D), Norm Coleman (R), Gil Gutknecht (R), Collin Peterson (D), Jim Ramstad (R), Martin Sabo (D), Mark Kennedy (R), Betty McCollum (D), John Kline (R), Hillary Clinton (D), Charles Schumer (D), Gary Ackerman (D), Timothy Bishop (D), Sherwood Boehlert (R), Steve Israel (D), Sue Kelly (R), Nita Lowey (D), John McHugh (R), Michael McNulty (R), Jerrold Nadler (D), Jose Serrano (D), Eudolphus Towns (D), Louise McIntosh (D), John Sweeney (R), James Walsh (R), John Kerry (D), Anthony Weiner (D), Thomas Reynolds (R), Charles Rangel (D), Jack Quinn (R), Major Owens (D), Gregory Meeks (D), Carolyn McCarthy (D), Carolyn Maloney (D), Peter King (R), Amo Houghton (R), Maurice Hinchey (D), Eliot Engel (D), Joseph Crowley (D), Mike DeWine (R), George Voinovich (R), Paul Gillmor (R), Michael Oxley (R), Rob Portman (R), Ralph Regula (R), Ted Strickland (D), Patrick Tiberi (R), Tim Ryan (D), Robert Ney (R), Steve LaTourette (R), Dennis Kucinich (D), Marcy Kaptur (D), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D), Sherrod Brown (D), Phil English (R), Chaka Fattah (D), James Greenwood (R), Joseph Hoeffel (D), Tim Holden (D), Paul Kanjorski (D), Tim Murphy (R), Curt Weldon (R), John Murtha (D), Melissa Hart (R), Jim Gerlach (R), Michael Doyle (D), Robert Brady (D), Herbert Kohl (D), James Sensenbrenner (R), Thomas Petri (R), Gerald Kleczka (D), Mark Green (R), Tammy Baldwin (D), Ron Kind (D), Paul Ryan (R), Earl Blumenauer (D), Barney Frank (D), Raul Grijalva (D), Donald Payne (D), Bernard Sanders (I), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Ed Case (D), Lloyd Doggett (D), Martin Frost (D), Mike McIntyre (D).

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