Depending on where you live, the Great Lakes may seem far from local.
But they hold 84 percent of the freshwater in North America. So if you ever get thirsty, you might want to pay attention.
President Barack Obama has proposed $475 million in funding for a Great Lakes restoration in his Fiscal Year 2010 budget. It would be a downpayment on a $5 billion campaign promise.
The money would go to target problems like invasive species, non-point source pollution and contaminated sediment, according to a copy of the proposal. Another $1 billion could be channeled to the eight-state region for sewer and drinking water system upgrades, the Associated Press reports. All of these are Clean Tech projects.
How many jobs are we talking? Every billion dollars invested in clean water infrastructure is estimated to generate 47,000 jobs, according to the Great Lakes Commission. See a pdf called “Great Lakes, Great Jobs,” for more.
Are the Great Lakes really in peril? Consider this: Climate change has contributed to decades of low water levels, algal blooms have returned with a vengeance, aquatic invasive species have transformed the ecosystem and certain fisheries are collapsing. There’s not even a good system yet for keeping ocean-going ships from bringing in new species in their ballast water, experts say. It’s another Clean Tech project ripe for the picking.
Environmental groups say the lakes need a lot more investment than $475 million, or $5 billion, based on a four-year-old, $20 billion-plus strategy crafted by the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration. But it’s the first time a president has made a serious effort to begin paying for the strategy, notes the National Wildlife Federation.
The Brookings Institution has estimated the long-term economic benefits of a full restoration at about $50 billion, or double the investment, by the way.