Environment News Service (ENS)

$50 Billion Benefit Projected for Great Lakes Restoration


Source: Environment News Service (ENS)

CHICAGO, Illinois, September 6, 2007 (ENS) - Restoring the health of the Great Lakes will create $50 billion in economic benefit for the region, about twice what it will cost to restore the lakes, according to a new cost-benefit analysis, conducted by the Brookings Institution Metropolitan Policy Program.

The report was released Wednesday on the eve of the 3rd Annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference which opens today in Chicago.

'This new report confirms in dollars and cents that the health of the Great Lakes economy depends on the health of the Great Lakes,' said Robert Litan, a Brookings Senior Fellow and vice president for research and policy at the Kauffman Foundation, who led the team of researchers who conducted the study.

The report estimates that cleaning up the lakes would also yield $30 to $50 Billion in short-term economic activity.

'A tremendous opportunity exists to restore the lakes, re-invigorate the region's economy, and boost the competitiveness of the nation. The report makes a compelling case for Congress to act now to restore the lakes by passing the Great Lakes Collaboration Implementation Act,' he said.

The group of five large lakes on or near the Canada-United States border are the largest group of fresh water lakes on Earth, containing 20 percent of the world’s fresh surface water.

The report, 'Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem,' concludes the economic gains will come from increases in tourism, the fishing industry, recreational activity and home values.

The report projects that some of the restoration funds would go towards modernizing wastewater treatment systems to reduce sewage and other contamination that will mean fewer beach closings and improved water quality.

Some funding would go towards stopping invasive species and increasing the supply of fish in the Great Lakes to avoid the dislocation of sport-fishery workers and assets.

Some funding would restore and protect wildlife habitat for birds and waterfowl for naturalists and hunters.

Removing contaminated sediment in areas of high concern to reclaim communities and increase property values is another funding priority.

'The conference is intended to light a fire under Congress, the President and presidential candidates to restore the Great Lakes because the problems only get worse and more expensive the longer we wait,' said Tom Kiernan, president of the National Parks Conservation Association and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

'The conference will make clear that industry, business and conservation groups agree: The Great Lakes are vital to the region, and it is time to act so that we can protect our lakes, our National Parks, our economy, our drinking water and our way of life,' Kiernan said.

The intensified effort to restore the Great Lakes comes as Illinois congressional leaders such as Senator Richard Durbin and Congressman Rahm Emanuel, both Democrats, and Congressman Mark Steven Kirk, a Republican, are calling for Great Lakes protections.

'The conference comes at a critical time for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who rely on them for their jobs, their health and their way of life,' said Andy Buchsbaum, director of the Great Lakes office of the National Wildlife Federation and co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

'The threat is urgent. The solutions are clear,' he said. 'We intend for the conference to inspire those holding office, and seeking office, to commit themselves to restoring the Great Lakes.'

The conference will feature some of the region’s top scientists to reveal the state of the Lakes’ health. Policy staff from the major 2008 presidential campaigns have been invited to talk about their candidates’ environmental and Great Lakes platforms.

'Every day, new news about a new threat to the Great Lakes is hitting the headlines,' said Cameron Davis, president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes and incoming co-chairman of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. 'People from around the region will be gathering to keep the momentum going in reversing this tide of threats so we can leave the Great Lakes better than the way we found them.'

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