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Candidates Asked to Commit to Great Lakes Restoration

A solar panel factory is being built by the restored Buffalo River. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Flickr)
A solar panel factory is being built by the restored Buffalo River. (Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Flickr)
March 7, 2016

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A broad coalition of business and conservation groups is asking presidential candidates to make restoration of the Great Lakes a priority.

The Great Lakes provide drinking water for 40 million people, and 1.5-million jobs.

Jordan Lubetkin, communications director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says in the past seven years, the federal government has invested more than $2 billion in 2,900 projects to help restore the lakes.

"We're seeing results that are helping the environment and the economy, but there's more work to do and we want that to continue," Lubetkin. "And that's why presidential leadership is so important."

As Great Lakes states begin holding their presidential primaries, the coalition is asking the candidates to adopt a platform that includes investing at least $300 million a year in restoring and protecting the lakes.

Tim Eder, executive director of the Great Lakes Commission, points to the cleanup of the Buffalo River, which flows into Lake Erie, as an example of how investing in restoration pays off.

"There's a new solar panel manufacturing plant that's being constructed on the newly restored rivers," says Eder. "So, we clean up the mistakes of the past, and economic development comes on its heels."

But according to Lubetkin, the work that still needs to be done is evident throughout the Great Lakes.

"We see invasive species hurt the fishery and outdoor recreation," he says. "We see habitat destruction hurt wildlife. We see pollutants from the region's industrial past that still need to be cleaned up in our rivers and our harbors."

He adds Great Lakes restoration has benefited from strong, bipartisan support in Washington, D.C., and the coalition wants whoever moves into the White House next year to continue that commitment.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY