Senators Stabenow and Feingold are trying to build support for Great Lakes funding in the economic stimulus package being developed. The following letter is being circulated as a way of showing support for inclusion of funding.
The letter highlights the traditional areas identified for Great Lakes Restoration- contaminated sediment, combined sewer overflows and eco restoration.
Dear Majority Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:
As you move forward with an economic recovery package for our nation, we strongly urge that you include funding that will protect and promote jobs by restoring and protecting one of our most important natural resources – the Great Lakes. In particular, we urge you to provide funding for the Great Lakes Legacy Act, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act. These investments will put people to work cleaning up toxic sediments in our region’s rivers and harbors, ending decades of sewer overflows into 95 percent of our nation’s fresh surface water, and restoring hundreds of acres of vital wetlands and habitat.
Since 2002, cleanups funded under the Great Lakes Legacy Act have removed nearly a million cubic yards of toxic sediments from rivers and harbors in the Great Lakes. These cleanups—a priority under the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration plan—are creating thousands of jobs and opportunities for additional economic development in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Gary, Duluth and other Midwest urban areas. By investing $262.0 million in 2009 and an additional $240.0 million in 2010 for toxic sediment cleanup projects, which were identified by our states, we can put thousands of people to work in struggling urban areas throughout our region. According to our states, these projects are ready to go and spending these funds can immediately begin to create jobs and economic activity in our region, with lasting impacts.
Another job-generating opportunity is investing in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. By investing in clean water infrastructure, we can put people to work tackling an important challenge of our times: aging water infrastructure and associated environmental, public health, and economic costs. It is estimated that for each $1 billion invested in clean water infrastructure, 47,000 jobs are generated. We recommend that the recovery package invest $10 billion in the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, resulting in 470,000 jobs nationally. In the Great Lakes region alone, a $10 billion national investment translates into $3.7 billion for the region and over 170,000 jobs that can establish a modern and environmentally sound water infrastructure system.
The negative economic impacts of aging infrastructure are well documented throughout the region and nation: from sewage-related closures every summer at Great Lakes beaches and water-borne illnesses and deaths to road damage, such as sinkholes caused by breaking water infrastructure. Old and ailing waste water treatment facilities are the cause of more than 23 billion gallons of raw sewage entering the Great Lakes in 2006. Stresses on our aging infrastructure are further compounded—until Congress acts—by reduced stream and wetland protections under the Clean Water Act as a result of recent Supreme Court decisions, further taxing water infrastructure that must compensate for lost natural filtration and water storage functions, for example. Also, climate change is expected to bring heavier rains that will inundate overtaxed waste water systems and lead to increased untreated sewage overflows in the Great Lakes. Addressing all of these threats will ensure the economic vitality of the Great Lakes and the nation’s resources, which we all depend on for jobs, drinking water, and quality of life.
We also support investing in ecosystem restoration programs, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act program, to fund wetlands and habitat projects. Restoring habitat, aquatic ecosystems, and wetlands not only can reduce the overall cost of water infrastructure projects; they also contribute to our state’s hunting, fishing, and wildlife watching economies. These projects will also immediately generate jobs on par with other infrastructure pursuits–a $130 million dollar investment in ready-to-go restoration projects in the Great Lakes region will generate nearly 3,000 jobs.
We look forward to supporting legislation that builds economic opportunity and puts people back to work while enhancing environmental quality. Investing in clean water infrastructure, toxic sediment remediation, and habitat restoration accomplishes all three goals. We urge you to include these investments in the recovery package that we will consider next year.
cc: Senator Boxer, Chairman, Environment and Public Works
Senator Inhofe, Ranking Member, Environment and Public Works
(Photo: flickr vice48sr5005/everystockphoto.com)