Gov. J.B. Pritzker and his counterparts from four other Great Lakes states are urging candidates in the 2020 presidential election to back a new plan aimed at protecting the lakes.
The six-part plan includes a proposal to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a $300 million program that has been targeted for cuts by President Donald Trump in budget proposals. The governors want to incrementally increase funding for the program to $475 million per year.
The plan also requests funding for a project to prevent invasive Asian carp from reaching Lake Michigan by fortifying the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, a proposal that is estimated to cost upward of $778 million.
In addition to Pritzker, the Great Lakes plan has received support from Govs. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Tony Evers of Wisconsin, Tim Walz of Minnesota and Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania. All five are Democrats.
Whitmer said she had contacted the region’s other three governors – Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York and Republicans Mike DeWine of Ohio and Eric Holcomb – but they declined to sign on.
The plan’s release comes as Democratic presidential candidates are scheduled to participate in debates Wednesday and Thursday in Detroit.
“The Great Lakes are a vital natural resource to our entire nation, and ensuring American families have access to clean drinking water and a safe waterway system that supports our economy should be a priority for our next president,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Investing in water infrastructure like the Brandon Road Lock and Dam as well as several other critical projects in the region will keep invasive species from harming our ecosystems and keep the Great Lakes region – and the entire United States of America – strong and thriving.”
The plan also calls for increased funding to address contamination from perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which are thousands of toxic chemicals used in products ranging from nonstick cookware to stain-resistant fabrics and firefighting foam. The compounds, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says can be harmful to humans, have been detected in drinking water systems across the region.
In addition to PFAS and invasive species like the Asian carp, the Great Lakes face a number of other daunting challenges, including threats linked to climate change, water contamination from the inadvertent dumping of untreated sewage and stormwater runoff and eroding beaches and shoreline.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.