The U.S. Senate is poised to pass the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2014, legislation that could provide crucial funds to restore and protect the Great Lakes at a critical time. If passed, approximately $300 million will be awarded annually to various organizations assisting in remediation efforts. The House has already signed off on the bill.
The initiative was begun in 2010, and is intended to support efforts such as toxic substance cleanup, protection against invasive species and preventing agricultural runoff through direct funding to states and competitive grants, according to The Detroit News. Since its beginning, the initiative has already invested more than $1.6 billion in these efforts.
The Great Lakes play a major role in the economy of its surrounding areas. The source reports that the Great Lakes provide more than 1.5 million jobs to residents, totaling more than $62 billion in wages. The beauty of the lakes also promotes tourism in the area, with figures from 2012 showing approximately 3.8 million annual visitors, who spent an estimated $1.1 billion.
They also represent one of the world's great resources. The Great Lakes contain 21 percent of the fresh water on the world's surface, which has recently been threatened by toxic pollution. "Unfortunately, we have not been the best stewards of these magnificent lakes, and we owe it to future generations to help assure they are preserved and protected," U.S. Representative Candice Miller told the Guardian Liberty Voice.
A portion of the funds that could be awarded as part of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act would support real-time water quality monitoring systems that would help protect drinking water quality. Other activities will include cleaning up shorelines and dredging shallow areas.
Whether or not the Senate votes to award these funds, organizations and local stakeholders should retain environmental consultants to ensure that these efforts are pursued in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.