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Public Policy Agenda - Great Lakes Metro Chamber Coalition

Investment in the Great Lakes

Renew and leverage the Great Lakes and our natural attributes to transform the economic region by improving both the supply and the quality of water for use in our region without diversion, as well as by supporting business development and research opportunities compatible with fresh water technology and water-based development. Complete the proposed Great Lakes Restoration plans recommended by the Great Lakes Commission and the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition.

The Great Lakes themselves represent an enormous competitive and quality of life asset, for both our nation and the Great Lakes binational region. Historically, they have helped connect people and enterprises and have served as both pathway and playscape, resulting in the most economically integrated trading region in the world. Much progress has been made in restoring the Great Lakes over the past thirty years - it is one of the major environmental success stories of our time - but much more remains to be done. If appropriate investments are made, the lakes themselves have the potential to help drive the revitalization of the region, and there will be significant increases in employment from the projects themselves as well as from their long term impact on the economy.

The recent ratification of the Great Lakes Compact and passage of the Great Lakes Legacy Act are major milestones in the life of the lakes and recognition of the vital role they will play in the region's future. However, there is more to do, which can create an advantage in the form of employment-generating projects with long term impacts on overall economic renewal.

Specifically:

The federal government should also participate as a strong partner with the Great Lakes states in the implementation of the Great Lakes Restoration Strategy, and should provide $13.75 billion of the estimated $26 billion present value investment required to address Great Lakes needs in the areas of:

  • Aquatic invasive species
  • Habitats and conservation
  • Coastal health
  • Areas of concern that suffer from severe environmental degradation
  • Non-point sources
  • Toxic pollutants
  • Sustainable development
  • Indicators and information

This investment can generate long term economic benefits of more than $80 billion.

The federal government should establish programs to protect the Great Lakes from discharges of untreated
ballast water from ocean-going vessels.

The federal government should participate with the Great Lakes states to rebuild the region's water and sewer infrastructure based on a thorough assessment of regional needs and a "fix-it-first" funding strategy that prioritizes existing systems in established communities and enhances the abilities of such systems to address non-point source pollution. The federal government should also provide adequate matching resources to meet the mandates to eliminate combined sewer overflows and storm water runoff.

The projects outlined here and included in the recommendations of the Great Lakes Commission and the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition can be powerful agents of change that bring short term and long term job creation, together with additional business and residential investment.

Looking ahead, the environmental interplay between water and air will become increasingly important. Without effective federal programs that reduce regional pollution, Great Lakes metropolitan areas will not be able to meet federal air quality standards by the deadlines specified by U.S. EPA in a cost effective and/or timely manner. Failure to meet the deadlines will retard the economic transformation of the Great Lakes region.

Congress should move quickly to provide the legal support for the Clean Air Interstate Rule program through legislation and maintain the cost effective cap and trade approach to reducing pollution from the utility sector. In addition, Congress should provide increased funding for the Diesel Emission Reduction Act to provide financial incentives to reduce pollution from diesel engines and make reasonable timelines for achieving air quality standards.