A group of Great Lakes fans from Indiana and seven other states recently returned from that nation’s capital after trying to persuade Congress that the sequester – that is, automatic budget cuts – will hurt the lakes. Cleanup efforts at the Great Lakes are a massive, lengthy project funded significantly by federal dollars, and those cuts could mean the cleanup could grind to a halt; no more dredging toxic chemicals from within the bodies of water, stopping Asian carp from invading Lake Michigan, or monitoring bacteria in the water for safe swimming.
The budget cuts would take $25 million from the restoration projects, and Jeff Skelding with the Great Lakes Coalition stated that is a lot of money that the lakes can’t afford to lose.
“We are all competing for scraps,” Skelding said. “To get the job done in the Great Lakes, when the plan came out in 2005, the price tag on that was $26 billion. We are a far, far way away from having enough money to get the job done.”
Because the Great Lakes are the primary source of drinking water for some 30 million people, Skelding said delaying the cleanup projects could come at a cost to health. However, Skelding said having abundant healthy water isn’t the only thing at stake.
“It’s not just about cleaning up the water,” Skelding said. “It’s also about cleaning up – making local economies more healthy.”
The coalition estimates that every dollar spent on restoring the Great Lakes results in $4 in economic activity created through jobs, tourism, and even increased property values.