MI - Opinion: $1B for Great Lakes Restoration calls for smarter spending
On the behalf of our HOMES lakes — Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior — the hard work of political wrangling is done.
The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill passed in August points $1 billion at the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which funds pollution and contamination clean up and prevention, invasive species removal and habitat restoration.
The boon not only raises the bar, it hurls it skyward like a javelin to the sun, with an additional five years of escalating yearly funding that will reach $475 million by 2026.
The $1 billion, plus the annual funding, wins the Great Lakes more money in the next five years than the program got in its entire first decade, according to Bridge Michigan.
This is great news for our HOMES-ies and the eight Great Lake states and Canada.
But the environmental bill due (experts tallied $20 billion in damages in 2005) exceeds our ability to pay for it, so smart decisions need making.
Politics can dribble into areas it doesn’t always belong, leaving communities without political wherewithal holding the bag.
Environmental justice seeks to remedy this by investing in communities of color that continue to suffer from disproportionate exposure to pollution.
This long-overdue guiding principle adds benefits beyond safe water, air and earth — a 2018 University of Michigan study found every federal GLRI dollar produced a threefold increase in economic activity in areas like jobs and tourism.
Scientific measures also need to be used to determine program efficacy.
Measuring how well agricultural buffers prevent runoff should be a part of subsidies to farmers.
Seems like common sense to prioritize projects that work in areas that need it most, but we all know how politics can turn sense into sassafras.
The good news is that, when it comes to our HOMES, residents on all sides of the aisle agree that our lakes need the help, and are worthy of the effort.