Great Lakes Cleanup Would Boost Economy, Report Says

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TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) -- A plan to clean up and protect the Great Lakes environment would boost the regional economy by more than twice its $26 billion price tag, according to a study released Wednesday.

In an analysis of a Great Lakes restoration plan proposed two years ago, the Brookings Institution said measures such as halting sewer overflows, cleaning up toxic spills and combating invasive species would go beyond helping the ecosystem.

They also would generate at least $50 billion worth of long-term economic benefits such as promoting tourism, raising coastal property values, cutting costs for cities and attracting new residents, the report said.

Additionally, the infusion of public money into the region to carry out the cleanup would produce a short-term ripple effect worth $30 billion to $50 billion, it said.

"These restoration activities are not just nice things to do for the environment; they are crucial things to do for the economy of our region," said John Austin, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program and a member of the team that produced the report.

Protecting the lakes does not require sacrificing jobs or economic growth, Austin said during a telephone news conference. "If anything, this report suggests that cleaning up the Great Lakes will be a jobs engine," he said.

The report should help generate support in Congress for funding the cleanup, said Andy Buchsbaum, co-chairman of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which helped sponsor the Brookings study.

"This investment pays off and it pays off quickly," he said.

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