Economy depends on health of Great Lakes
Written by Muskegon Chronicle   
Saturday, 10 November 2007 14:44
The stakeholders of the 14 pollution hot spots in the Great Lakes got a preview Friday of what could become a hot topic in the 2008 presidential race -- preservation of the water supply, specifically in the Great Lakes.

Getting the word out to the public that keeping the lakes clean is vital to a healthy economy was the focus of an area workshop attended by government leaders, state officials and environmentalists.

The direct economic benefits of restoring the Great Lakes would amount to at least $50 billion nationally and regionally, according to a recent landmark study.

The governors of the Great Lakes states this week called for presidential candidates to address low water levels and increasing pollution, issues addressed in "Healthy Waters, Strong Economy: The Benefits of Restoring the Great Lakes Ecosystem."

"Candidates who turn their backs on the Great Lakes are turning their backs on our drinking water, our economy, our way of life," said Jordan Lubetkin, spokesman for Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. "Great Lakes restoration needs to be a presidential platform for Republicans and Democrats."

The study, commissioned by The Brookings Institution of Washington, D.C., determined many economic benefits of restoring the Great Lakes and cleaning up toxic hot spots, including a $6.5-$11.8 billion boost from tourism, fishing and recreation, and a $12-$19 billion increase in coastal property values.

The cost of Great Lakes restoration is estimated at $26 billion. Legislation to implement the strategy has been introduced in both houses of Congress.

Soren Anderson, one of the authors of the study and the keynote speaker at Friday's workshop, said the study was important because it helps show the benefits of Great Lakes restoration.

"Everyone can see the lakes slowly decaying around them and all plans always have the costs associated with them," Anderson said. "But the benefits are always harder to quantify. There's not a store out there where people can buy a fishing day or a beach day."

Norm Ullman, chairman of the White Lake Public Advisory Council who has played a key role in the cleanup efforts for White Lake, lauded the study's importance.

"It's ultimately imperative for the economic well-being and recovery of the state of Michigan," Ullman said of Great Lakes restoration.

Ullman was one of many local leaders who attended the workshop at Michillinda Lodge in Fruitland Township.

Kathy Evans and Tanya Cabala, leaders of the Muskegon and White lakes cleanup programs, were among the presenters at the workshop. They described the successes and setbacks those cleanup efforts faced over the years and provided their colleagues from other toxic hot spot areas with ways to engage and communicate with the public.

The cleanup efforts and community involvement in Muskegon and White lakes were recognized as models other communities should follow.

"They've made far more progress than the other Areas of Concern in Michigan," said Matt Doss, program manager for the Great Lakes Commission.

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