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Groups: Great Lakes Economic Engine Needs Presidential Support

Over $2.2 billion federal dollars have funded over 2,900 restoration projects in the Great Lakes. (WP pilot/Wikimedia)
Over $2.2 billion federal dollars have funded over 2,900 restoration projects in the Great Lakes. (WP pilot/Wikimedia)
March 8, 2016

COLUMBUS, Ohio - As the presidential candidates turn the focus on Ohio with the state's primary just one week away a coalition of business, industry, and conservation groups are asking the candidates to protect a crucial resource in the region.

The Great Lakes contain 20 percent of the world's fresh water and provide drinking water for 40 million people.

Kathryn Buckner, president of the Council of Great Lakes Industries, explains the waterways are also a boon to outdoor recreation and employ 1.5 million people.

"The lakes themselves, the lake environment, the communities on the coast of the lakes, the businesses that operate here," says Buckner. "This is an asset that needs to be protected so it can continue being an economic engine moving forward for the United States, for Canada, and really for the world."

The organizations are urging those running for the White House to continue at least $300 million a year in federal investment for Great Lakes restoration and protections.

Ed Wolking, executive director of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, says the 2014 toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie that tainted the water of Toledo residents, and the current Flint water crisis, highlight the need for a long-term commitment to address ongoing threats to the Great Lakes.

He adds that's why their Great Lakes platform goes beyond encouraging restoration.

"It also includes investments in water management including water and sewer overflow, safe drinking water," says Wolking. "But it also includes investments in our Great Lakes as key transportation arteries in our bi-national economy system."

Over $2.2 billion in federal dollars has funded over 2,900 projects in the Great Lakes region. And Jordan Lubetkin, communications director with the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says it's been a bipartisan investment.

"It hasn't just galvanized the region, it's really attracted both Democrats and Republicans," says Lubetkin. "This is especially important at a time when a lot of people look at Congress, they see a lot of gridlock and fighting and partisanship. Well here's an issue that's bringing people together and we'd like to see that continue."

Former President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama both committed to fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to address habitat destruction, invasive species and other threats.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH