Great Lakes Platform for 2020

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Great Lakes Platform for 2020

The platform lays out concrete actions the next president can take to support federal efforts to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The platform asks candidates to invest in the region’s drinking water and sewage infrastructure, as well as efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff pollution that causes toxic algal outbreaks and fight invasive species like Asian carp. Candidates should also work to enforce clean water rules that deal with both well-known and emerging contaminants to our drinking water. These efforts are needed to restore and protect the Great Lakes.

Who is the group behind the platform?

The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition is a coalition of groups that spans the eight-state region of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and New York. Since 2004, the coalition has been harnessing the collective power of more than 150 groups representing millions of people, whose common goal is to restore and protect the Great Lakes. The diverse set of stakeholders underscores how important the Great Lakes are to the region’s environment and economy.

What are you asking candidates to commit to specifically?

We’re asking candidates to commit to concrete actions that can help keep federal Great Lakes restoration efforts on track. These include:

  • Increasing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding up to $475 million to boost our work of cleaning up toxic contamination, reducing polluted runoff, stopping invasive species, and restoring wetlands and other habitats.
  • Creating and funding an equitable plan that addresses our region’s $179 billion backlog in drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater infrastructure using innovative technology and nature-based solutions and leveraging local and tribal partnerships, so all people have access to safe, affordable water services.
  • Stopping and controlling the introduction and spread of invasive species in the region by blocking Asian carp at Brandon Road Lock & Dam and implementing strong ballast water protection measures.
  • Supporting effective enforcement of existing clean water rules to deal with both well-known threats like lead, mercury, and nutrient pollution and emerging threats like PFAS and other contaminants.
  • Meeting harmful algal bloom reduction goals, like the 40 percent goal for Western Lake Erie, through a region-wide Farm Bill clean water initiative and other measures
Why is this important?

The Great Lakes supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in the states of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, and New York. And millions more depend on them for their jobs and way of life. Yet many of our cities and towns are living with unsafe drinking water, so now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement. We need more—not less—protection for clean water. Sewage overflows close beaches. Legacy contamination impacts water quality and affects the vitality of coastal communities. And invasive species and habitat destruction undermine the region’s outdoor recreation economy. The good news is that there are solutions. And it’s going to take a sustained commitment to restore this vital resource for people now and generations to come.

Will you be supporting any of the candidates?

No. The coalition will not endorse or oppose any candidate. We believe that every presidential candidate has the opportunity to stand up for the Great Lakes and the millions of people who depend on them for their drinking water, jobs, and way of life. The goal is for the next occupant of the White House to champion Great Lakes restoration and protection.

Is this important to business and industry?

The Great Lakes are the foundation of the region’s economy. The Great Lakes create a unique competitive advantage for the region, which accounts for nearly one-third of combined U.S. and Canadian economic activity. More than 1.2 million people have jobs that are connected to the Great Lakes, generating more than $62 billion in wages annually. The more than 35 million people who boat, fish, hunt, and view wildlife in the region generate over $33 billion annually. The regional maritime sector directly contributes more than $30 billion to the U.S. and Canadian economies and accounts for more than 220,000 jobs. Restoring the Great Lakes will help sustain companies that already operate here and will drive the revitalization of the region.

Why now?

A lot of work remains. And we need a commitment from the highest levels of government that the nation will maintain its commitment to the lakes and see the job through. Many cities and towns in our region are living with unsafe drinking water so now is not the time to cut back on clean water enforcement. For example, the U.S. EPA estimates that the eight Great Lakes states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and New York need more than $77 billion over the next 20 years to fix old sewers. Further, many toxic hotspots remain around the region that are responsible for drinking water restrictions, beach closures, and fish consumption advisories. Our work is not done until we’ve put an end to those threats.

Does the U.S. Congress support federal restoration efforts?

Yes. Both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress have supported federal Great Lakes restoration efforts. In a time of intense partisan gridlock, members of Congress from both parties have supported federal restoration efforts.

Have federal Great Lakes restoration efforts been successful?

Yes. Over the last 10 years, the federal government has invested over $2.4 billion in more than 4,700 projects that have been producing results in communities around the region. These projects are putting people to work now while laying the foundation for long term prosperity. Studies indicate that every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration produces at least $2 of economic benefit—with some studies suggesting the return on investment is closer to 6-to-1 in the form of increased property values, tourism, and tax revenue. Investments in the revitalization of the Great Lakes offer some of the best returns on the dollar in the federal budget.

What if candidates don't support the platform?

The nation cannot afford to scale back revitalizing restoration efforts now, because the problems will only be more complicated and expensive the longer we wait. The Great Lakes will not recover on their own. The threats facing them—from sewage overflows to invasive species—will persist. And the costs of addressing the threats will only increase, hampering the economic recovery of the region. That’s why we are urging candidates to continue the federal government’s successful restoration initiative.

What's next?

We look forward to engaging with presidential candidates and their campaign staff to discuss the importance of the Great Lakes to the region’s environment and economy. Candidates are heading to Great Lakes states – Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Indiana – and we want to make sure that Great Lakes restoration is an issue that candidates discuss when visiting the region now and through the general election.