TRAVERSE CITY, Michigan (AP) – Coastal towns and cities in the Great Lakes region will spend large sums in the coming years to repair public infrastructure damaged by recent flooding and erosion, with an estimated cost of US $ 2 billion Dollars, officials said Thursday.
According to a survey by the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, a coalition of mayors and local officials in the eight states and two Canadian provinces, communities have invested around $ 878 million in repairs over the past two years.
However, the survey of 241 cities, villages and other countries found that at least $ 1.94 billion more will be needed over the next five years. The total number is certainly even higher as the report did not include all coastal communities, said Jon Altenberg, executive director of the initiative.
“Communities around the Great Lakes are facing a growing crisis and we need both the US and Canadian governments to help make the necessary investments,” said Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. “Our coastal infrastructure is critical to the economic health and recovery of our communities and coordinated action is required.”
Unusually high lake levels and heavy rains since 2019 have caused drinking water pipes, sidewalks, harbors and docks to collapse. Parkland, beaches and wetlands were washed away. Parts of the streets have collapsed.
The levels of the Great Lakes fluctuate annually with the seasons and have experienced long periods of high and low water in the past. However, scientists say that global warming could make these multi-year fluctuations more abrupt and extreme.
Lake Huron and Michigan hit their lowest on record in early 2013, while the other Great Lakes – Superior, Erie, and Ontario – were well below average. Then came a turning point when wetter weather filled the lakes to the brim. All five hit record highs in the past two years.
Although levels have fallen this year, heavy storms have inundated some cities on the lakes or rivers they connect, including Chicago and Detroit.
The city group joins other government, economic and environmental organizations in pushing for the Great Lakes Region to receive a generous portion of the infrastructure funding proposed and congressional-reviewed by President Joe Biden.
In addition to further funding the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s 2010 cleanup program, the groups wrote a June 24 letter to Congress leaders calling for billions for water and sanitation, flood control, and related needs.
“These investments will address long-standing basin-wide priorities while stimulating economic activity in the hardest-hit communities in our region,” the letter reads.