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U.S. Study Finds Positive Economic Return from Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

By Todd Westcott 10:31AM September 25, 2018

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A new report released today shows that every federal dollar spent in the United States on Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) projects from the program’s launch in 2010 through 2016 will produce a further $3.35 of economic activity in the Great Lakes region through 2036.

“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,” John Linc Stine, chair, Great Lakes Commission. “It’s a positive legacy that States and our partner organizations can leave for future generations. The Great Lakes states are ready and excited to continue this critical work until the job is finished.”

GLRI launched in 2010 and the U.S. Congress appropriated over $2.5 billion from 2010 through 2017 to fund more than 3,600 projects that have dramatically improved environmental conditions around the region. While the GLRI was intended to accelerate environmental restoration of the Great Lakes and was not intended to stimulate the economy, the study shows that it created or supported thousands of jobs, approximately the same number of jobs per dollar of investment that would be created by a conventional federal stimulus program designed to exclusively boost job growth.

“The research released today shows once again that programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative can help the environment and our economy,” said Molly Flanagan, vice president for policy, Alliance for the Great Lakes. “The GLRI is clearly a strong investment for the region, protecting our drinking water and recreation opportunities while supporting local economic growth and quality of life in communities across the region.”

The study also found that GLRI increased the value that residents place on living in coastal areas: every project dollar spent between 2010 and 2016 produced quality of life improvements worth $1.08 to residents as measured in housing values, leading to an overall increase of $900 million in home values in Great Lakes coastal communities.

Eight case studies illustrated how the regional impact of the GLRI translated into local improvements in specific Great Lakes communities. The case studies showed that GLRI leads to significant new real estate and commercial development, particularly in waterfront areas; a resurgence in traditional water-based recreation and the emergence of a new type of tourism focused on kayaking, kitesurfing, and paddle-boarding; improved quality of life, as indicated by willingness to pay more for housing in coastal areas; and increases in the number of young people who are choosing to stay in or relocate to Great Lakes communities. While none of the case studies cover Canadian locales, it can be appreciated that similar impacts on property values, tourism, and the like would stand.

The report and other project materials are available at on the Great Lakes Commission’s website.

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