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Coalition asks presidential candidates to promise Great Lakes protection

satellite map of Michigan, the Great Lakes
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

A group of business, industry, government, and environmental organizations in the Great Lakes region are asking presidential candidates to commit to protecting the lakes.

The coalition asked each candidate yesterday to support a specific list of priorities it calls the Great Lakes Protection & Restoration Platform.

The platform includes maintaining at least the current federal funding level of $300 million per year for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The initiative works on reducing harmful algae blooms and farm and urban runoffs, fighting invasive species, and restoring wildlife habitat.

The platform also asks for a promise to support infrastructure investments to protect drinking water and to improve ports, locks, and other maritime assets.

“If you think about the Great Lakes, they’re the defining economic, geographic, and environmental asset that we have,” said Ed Wolking Jr., executive director of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition.

Wolking said the Great Lakes are a catalyst for job creation and economic development.

‘The Great Lakes ... is the defining asset of a great trading region that, if it were a country, it would be the third-largest economy in the world with output in the range of $6 trillion,” said Wolking. “And the businesses and people of our bi-national region depend heavily on the Great Lakes-St.Lawrence system for their water, their quality of life, and also their supply-chain relationships.

According to Wolking, the Great Lakes are the most important body of fresh water in the world: 22% of the world’s surface fresh water and 84% of North America’s. 

Wolking said as the presidential primaries come to the Great Lakes states, it is a particularly important time for candidates to commit to the platform.

Walking said restoring and protecting the Great Lakes has been a bipartisan national priority during the past two presidential administrations, so it is critical to know where each of the current candidates for the White House stands.

In addition to the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition, other groups seeking the commitment from the presidential candidates are the Council of Great Lakes Industries, the Healing Our Water-Great Lakes Coalition, the Great Lakes Commission, and Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.