The Great Lakes Commission is urging Congress to include funding for critical Great Lakes infrastructure needs in the economic stimulus package currently being developed. In correspondence sent this week to the Great Lakes Congressional delegation, Commission Chairman Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn stated that “now, more than ever, we have an opportunity to create jobs, stimulate economic development and protect and restore fresh water resources in the eight-state Great Lakes region.”
Recognizing the severe economic downturn affecting the Great Lakes region, Lt. Gov. Quinn emphasized that the Great Lakes are a vital economic asset for the region. The Commission highlighted four critical areas where the economic stimulus package could support large-scale infrastructure projects that can be implemented in 2009 to stimulate job growth and strengthen the regional economy.
- Repair and upgrade failing wastewater infrastructure by providing $6.5 billion to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, with $2.4 billion for the eight Great Lakes states.
- Implement toxic sediment cleanup projects by providing $250 million for the Great Lakes Legacy Act.
- Begin construction of a new large lock at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan with $100 million for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
- Eliminate the backlog in dredging Great Lakes ports, navigation channels and recreational harbors by providing $125 million to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The Commission’s recommendations will advance several key elements of the Great Lakes Regional Collaboration Strategy to Restore and Protect the Great Lakes, a comprehensive restoration plan adopted in 2005. They also address recommendations from the recent Business Agenda for Economic Transformation in the Great Lakes Region, released in September by 25 metropolitan Chambers of Commerce from the Great Lakes states. Among other federal economic policy priorities, they recommend increasing federal funding for transportation infrastructure; leveraging the economic potential of the Great Lakes; and implementing the Great Lakes restoration strategy.
“The Great Lakes are a vital component of the eight-state regional economy,” stated Lt. Gov. Quinn, adding that “maximizing their economic benefits should be a key policy goal for the federal government.” In addition to supporting the Great Lakes restoration and economic revitalization agenda, he noted that the Commission’s recommendations would also complement and leverage the estimated $15 billion that local governments are investing annually in the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Commission, chaired by Gov. Patrick Quinn (Ill.), is an interstate compact agency established under state and U.S. federal law and dedicated to promoting a strong economy, healthy environment and high quality of life for the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region and its residents. The Commission consists of governors’ appointees, state legislators, and agency officials from its eight member states. Associate membership for Ontario and Québec was established through the signing of a “Declaration of Partnership.” The Commission maintains a formal Observer programinvolving U.S. and Canadian federal agencies, tribal authorities, binational agencies and other regional interests. The Commission offices are located in Ann Arbor, Michigan.