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Presidential Hopefuls Asked to Support Great Lakes Restoration

Conservationists and businesses want the presidential candidates to support Great Lakes cleanup efforts, including a project at Minnesota's Duluth–Superior Harbor. (iStockphoto)
Conservationists and businesses want the presidential candidates to support Great Lakes cleanup efforts, including a project at Minnesota's Duluth–Superior Harbor. (iStockphoto)
March 8, 2016

ST. PAUL, Minn. - As the presidential candidates continue along the campaign trail, a coalition of business and conservation leaders is asking them to make restoring the Great Lakes a priority.

The group says more than 40 million people rely on the lakes for clean drinking water, and over a million jobs depend on them.

David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, says local officials are trying to deal with the challenges of unhealthy waters.

Now, they're asking the candidates to promise at least $300 million in yearly funding to help them protect the waterways.

"If we are to keep the momentum going on the restoration and protection of the resource, we need a continued source of funding," says Ullrich.

As home to the one of the largest active harbors on the Great Lakes, Ullrich says the St. Louis River Estuary in Minnesota has received significant federal funding to help clean it up.

Nationally, the government has invested more than $2 billion to help restore the lakes.

Jordan Lubetkin, spokesman with the the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says the country has made progress on the cleanup in recent years.

But he points to the water problems facing residents in Flint, Michigan, as a clear sign that more work needs to be done.

"It's a public health crisis, it's an infrastructure crisis, it's a drinking water crisis," says Lubetkin. "So, we know how important clean water is, and that's why we need to see the nation continue to make Great Lakes restoration a national priority."

The coalition notes that, even with a sharply-divided Congress, Great Lakes restoration has earned strong bipartisan support from lawmakers.

Ullrich says the group is now asking every presidential candidate to endorse the Great Lakes platform.

"To see Republicans and Democrats come together on an issue surrounding the Great Lakes is really quite encouraging," he says. "We want to see all of the candidates support this."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - MN