The Great Lakes, one of the natural wonders of the world, are more than just water. They are at the heart of America’s culture, economy, and health . . .
They contain one-fifth of the world’s fresh surface water, supplying more than 42 million people with drinking water every day.
- More than 83 million people live in the Great Lakes states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
- They include three of the largest lakes in the world (Superior, Michigan and Huron) and have nearly 11,000 miles of shoreline in the U.S. and Canada.
- Fifty million tons of cargo are transported through the Great Lakes annually.
- America’s only island national park, Isle Royale, is found in Lake Superior. Lake Huron alone contains more than 30,000 islands.
- Nearly one-third of America’s recreational boats are in the Great Lakes region. Recreational boaters of the Great Lakes spend more than $2 billion annually, and Great Lakes anglers and hunters spend more than $6.5 billion annually.
- The Great Lakes support a diverse manufacturing, shipping, agriculture and tourism economy valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
For these and other reasons, President George W. Bush declared the Great Lakes to be “a national treasure constituting the largest freshwater system in the world” in an executive order issued May 18, 2004.
Unfortunately, raw sewage is closing our beaches and mercury is contaminating our fish, invasive species and irresponsible development are threatening our wildlife and tourism, and the neglect of Great Lakes water resources threatens the economy and health of millions of citizens . .
- Over 100 years of pollution from PCBs, mercury, dioxin and other materials fouls the bottom of many harbors and bays, and contaminates many Great Lakes fish. The price tag for cleaning up these contaminated sediments is estimated at $1.5 to $4.5 billion.
- Invasive species continue to harm the Lakes, adding to the 160 alien species already present, and costing the region an estimated $5 billion annually.
- Pollution from failing sewage systems contributed to almost 3,000 days of Great Lakes beach closings and advisories in 2004. During one week in 2004, Milwaukee discharged more than 4.5 billion gallons of raw sewage into Lake Michigan.
- In some areas, more than 90% of our wetlands have been lost, affecting water quality and outdoor-based tourism.
While these problems are daunting, we have manageable solutions for all of them. On December 12, 2005, members of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration (GLRC) released their plan of action.
If fully funded, our Great Lakes would be cleaner, safer, and healthier for generations to come. Please add your support for the GLRC plan, because every day we wait, problems in the Great Lakes will get worse and the solutions will get more costly.