Investments in the Great Lakes yield real results – not just in improved environmental health, but in a stronger and more vibrant local economy. Every dollar invested in Great Lakes restoration generates between $2 (Brookings Institute) and $6 (Grand Valley State University) in economic returns. With over 1.5 million Great Lakes connected jobs generating more than $60 billion in annual wages (University of Michigan), and over $50 billion in annual revenue – roughly 28% of the total U.S. GDP – from the more than 37 million tourists and recreational users (Great Lakes Commission), the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is arguably one of the best investments in the U.S. budget!

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a big part of Indiana’s economy as well. The Lieutenant Governor’s office released a report showing that tourism is Indiana’s sixth largest source of income, contributing roughly $7.7 billion to Indiana’s GDP and paying nearly $3 billion in direct wages to over 139,000 employees. In 2011 alone, 2.3 million people fished, hunted, or engaged in wildlife watching in Indiana; the fishing industry generated $671,840,000, the hunting industry generated $222,310,000, and wildlife watching industry generated $751,343,000 in total expenditures within the state by outdoor recreationalists. Much of this revenue comes from Great Lakes tourism – in fact, the Indiana Dunes National lakeshore saw nearly 2 million visitors in 2002 alone.

Since its inception, the GLRI has invested $25 million in 35 restoration projects just in Indiana. These projects have focused on restoring more than 2,600 acres of coastal wetlands, waterways, and habitat. One great example of the effectiveness of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the Grand Calumet River restoration project. Traversing a heavily industrialized landscape, the Grand Calumet has been one of the most polluted rivers in the U.S. for decades. Funding from the GLRI is allowing for the restoration of this river; to date, restoration efforts have removed 575,000 cubic yards of toxic mud from the Grand Calumet riverbed! Learn more about the Grand Calumet restoration efforts.

President Obama’s proposed 2015 budget recommends $275 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; $200 million less than the initial proposed funding from 2009, and $25 million less than the current funding levels. This proposal also allocates a little more than $1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, representing a cut of $430 million from current funding levels and costing Great Lakes states, including Indiana, over $150 million in funding for projects such as wastewater infrastructure upgrades.

We need to continue to invest in cleaner and healthier Great Lakes – not only to protect our precious drinking water and recreational areas, but to promote our local communities and stabilize our economy! Contact Senators Donnelly and Coats, and urge them to restore funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative!

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