Cleaner Water, Better Fishing, Bigger Business: What New Funding Means for Michigan Great Lakes

By Isaac Constans

February 23, 2022

From water skiing to fishing, water activities drive Michigan’s economy. A new investment in Michigan’s Great Lakes basin will pay dividends. 

Need to Know

  • Nine Michigan water sites previously identified as “areas of concern” will be cleaned up by 2030.
  • These federally funded projects will boost the economy, environment, and health of neighboring communities. 
  • Every dollar invested in the Great Lakes returns up to $4 in economic activity. 

MICHIGAN—Water lovers rejoice.

The US Environmental Protection Agency announced last week that it plans to clean up 22 sites across the Great Lakes, and more of those sites fall in Michigan than in any other state. 

The nine sites are the ​​Clinton River, Detroit River, Manistique River, Muskegon Lake, River Raisin, Rouge River, St. Clair River, St. Marys River, and the Upper Peninsula’s Torch Lake. The environmental restoration will bring cleaner water to millions of people and provide recreational, health, and economic benefits to residents and visitors, experts said. 

“Through the investments from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we will make unprecedented progress in our efforts to restore and protect the waters and the communities of the Great Lakes basin,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a statement.

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As indicated by Regan’s statement, Michigan won’t be on the hook for the cleanup of its sites, many of which are inland rivers and lakes within the reach of the Great Lakes water basin. Instead, much of the funding comes by way of the feds, through the bipartisan-supported infrastructure law that President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats—including Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters—worked to pass in 2021. 

The actual rehabilitation process involves removing pollutants and chemicals from the bodies of water, many which have been used as industrial dumping sites. Algal blooms and invasive species are often the product of contamination, which can pose a threat to native species and people who live nearby. 

“These efforts will strengthen our tourism industry, protect our fisheries, keep our beaches open, and support outdoor recreation for generations to come,” Stabenow said in a statement.

A University of Michigan study suggests that the new $1 billion investment—on top of existing programs—will pay dividends to neighboring communities that depend on the economic stimulus that water-related activities and business provide. 

Every dollar spent in the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—the 2010 multi-agency effort behind the rehabilitation push—produced $3.35 in kickback of related economic activities. In highly populated regions, such as Detroit, each dollar invested quadrupled its worth. 

Michigan officials lauded the announcement, which projects that all 22 sites should be cleaned up by 2030.

“Cleaning up our rivers and lakes will improve quality of life for Michiganders and accelerate economic opportunity for communities all across this state,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said. “Together, we will continue putting Michiganders first, fixing our infrastructure, and growing our economy.”

READ MORE: 7 Projects to Get Excited About in Gov. Whitmer’s Proposed Budget for Michigan


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