U.S. Water News Online
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- A proposed restoration of the Great
Lakes would generate at least $50 billion in economic gains -- twice
as much as the cleanup would cost, according to a report issued
The analysis by the Brookings Institution said healing the
ecologically ailing lakes would help industries such as tourism and
outdoor recreation. It also would boost property values, reduce
wastewater treatment costs and attract new residents.
In addition to such long-term benefits, pumping government money
into the region for the cleanup would have a temporary ripple effect
worth $30 billion to $50 billion as contractors pay workers and make
purchases, said economists with the research and policy institute in
"These restoration activities are not just nice things to do for
the environment," said John Austin, a senior fellow with Brookings'
Metropolitan Policy Program. Cleaning up the Great Lakes, he said,
"will be a jobs engine."
Aside from showing that environmental protection doesn't
necessarily require economic sacrifice, the report illustrates how
government spending on improved water quality is worth the initial
price, said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chairman of Healing Our Waters-Great
"This investment pays off and it pays off quickly," he said.
Scientists have warned that the Great Lakes, which make up 90
percent of the nation's surface fresh water and nearly 20 percent of
the worldwide supply, are verging on ecological breakdown. They are
suffering from centuries of toxic pollution, wildlife habitat loss
and other human-caused stresses.
The Great Lakes Regional Collaboration -- a partnership of
government agencies, business and environmental groups, Indian tribes
and other interests -- developed a wide-ranging restoration blueprint
in 2005. Its estimated price tag was $20 billion, which the Brookings
report said has since increased to $26 billion.
Nearly half the money would pay to upgrade wastewater treatment
facilities blamed for dumping untreated sewage into the lakes,
prompting beach closures in some cities.
Among other proposals: cleansing heavily polluted sites; restoring
wetlands; preventing release of toxic chemicals; restoring habitat;
and halting exotic species invasions.
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