An 8-year-old federal program funding environmental restoration and preservation projects on the Great Lakes is generating $3.35 in economic activity for every dollar spent, a study by University of Michigan researchers has concluded.
Federal agencies spent $1.4 billion on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative projects from 2010-2016, the period covered by the study. The economic activity estimate covers a period through 2026.
“This study describes what we already know in facts and figures — cleaning up legacy pollution and restoring aquatic habitat on the Great Lakes isn’t only good for the environment, it creates jobs and fuels the regional economy," said John Linc Stine, chairman of the Great Lakes Commission, on of the study's sponsors.
The list of nearly 4,000 GLRI projects includes 153 in Indiana, totaling about $118 million in funding. Much of that has gone to Grand Calumet River cleanup, which is an "area of concern" targeted by the GLRI and by the older Great Lakes Legacy Act.
Among other local projects, GLRI funds have gone to projects along the Little Calumet River, at the Jeorse Park Beach in East Chicago, and to restoration work in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
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The GLRI has four aims, said Mike Shriberg, executive director of the National Wildlife Federation's Great Lakes Regional Center: cleaning up contamination at "areas of concern"; stopping invasive species; stopping "nonpoint source pollution" — the pollution caused by rainfall and snowmelt passing through the ground into bodies of water; and habitat restoration.
According to the study, among the GLRI's accomplishments are: "Six million pounds of invasive Asian carp have been trapped and removed from the Illinois River, more than 402,000 pounds of phosphorus have been prevented from running into the lakes, and more than 180,000 acres of fish and wildlife habitat have been protected or restored."
Nearly half the economic boost described by the University of Michigan study will be in tourism, the study concludes. That sector will generate $1.62 in activity for every federal dollar spent.
Through 2017, the U.S. Congress has appropriated $2.5 billion to the GLRI. It has continued to fund the program despite a Trump administration call for it to be ended.