ANN ARBOR, MICH. (PRESS RELEASE)—The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition praised the recent announcement by the U.S. EPA that the state of Michigan is receiving $236 million as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for water infrastructure projects in the state.
“This is a huge boost for the Great Lakes and for Michigan jobs,” said Andy Buchsbaum, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation’s Great Lakes Regional Center and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “These investments are an excellent first step to promote economic recovery and Great Lakes restoration while protecting the health of millions of people. But they’re only a first step.”
The $236 million investment in Michigan will create about 8,189 jobs, according to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics.
“Federal investment in proven, successful programs will create jobs and heal the Great Lakes,” said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We need to build on this success by funding President Obama’s $475 million Great Lakes restoration initiative before the problems get worse and the solutions get more costly.”
In February President Obama released his budget, which included a precedent-setting $475 million Great Lakes restoration fund to address problems such as invasive species, habitat loss, and toxic pollution.
“We look forward to working with Congress and the Obama Administration in putting forward solutions to restore the Lakes, rejuvenate our economy and provide a better quality of life for millions of people,” said Jill Ryan, executive director of Freshwater Future and co-chair of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “An investment in the Great Lakes will pay dividends in the form of creating jobs, protecting public health, and restoring a resource that millions of people depend on.”
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides $4 billion for sewer infrastructure projects and $2 billion for clean water projects around the nation through the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund programs. The programs provide low-interest loans to communities for clean water and sewer infrastructure projects.
By formula, about $2.16 billion will go to the eight Great Lakes states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin—creating approximately 75,000 jobs.
Antiquated wastewater infrastructure releases at least 23 billion gallons of sewage into the Great Lakes every year, causing more than 2,700 days of beach closures annually, threatening public health and harming the region’s outdoor recreation economy. It impacts the quality of life for millions of people and limits the ability of the region to lure new businesses, industries and talented workforce.
The EPA estimates that the nation must invest $390 billion over the next 20 years to update or replace existing systems and build new ones to meet increasing demand. The nation’s backlog in addressing its wastewater infrastructure led the American Society of Civil Engineers to give the nation the grade of D- in assessing the country’s wastewater infrastructure in a January 2009 report.
Recently the EPA announced that the state of New York would receive $432 million under the recovery act.
The Brookings Institution estimates that the people and communities of the Great Lakes region stand to gain $50 billion of economic benefit by investing $26 billion now to restore the lakes. That is a net gain of $24 billion from increases in tourism, the fishing industry, recreational activity and home values. In addition, the states would see at least $30 billion in short-term economic activity.
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition consists of more than 100 environmental, conservation, outdoor recreation organizations, zoos, aquariums and museums representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes.