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The election recount spotlight is on Florida, with three hotly contested races. Also on the Monday rundown: Can women sustain their record election gains? And a bill in Congress would help fund preservation of historic sites.

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Conservationists Want Presidential Hopefuls to Prioritize Great Lakes

Conservationists want the presidential candidates to pledge their support for clean up funds for Great Lakes areas, including Lake Michigan's shoreline. (iStockphoto)
Conservationists want the presidential candidates to pledge their support for clean up funds for Great Lakes areas, including Lake Michigan's shoreline. (iStockphoto)
March 14, 2016

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As Illinois voters prepare to head to the polls in the state primary Tuesday, a coalition of business and conservation leaders is asking the presidential candidates to make restoring the Great Lakes a priority.

According to the group, more than 40 million people rely on the lakes for clean drinking water, and over a million jobs depend on the waterways.

David Ullrich, executive director of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, is asking the candidates to pledge at least $300 million in yearly funding to help protect areas along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

"There have been very significant investments out of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has tremendously enhanced the migrating habitat for large numbers of migrating birds," he points out.

Ullrich also says the restoration project is helping to clean Waukegan Harbor, which the Environmental Protection Agency once declared one of the world's worst chemical contamination sites.

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

Jordan Lubetkin, a spokesman of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says the country has made progress cleaning the lakes in recent years. But he points to the water problems facing residents in Flint, Mich., 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,” he states. “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 stresses. “We want to see all of the candidates support this."

Brandon Campbell, Public News Service - IL