great lakes

About 8 percent of the U.S. population lives by the Great Lakes shoreline. The increase of climate change puts at risk the future of the lakes.

INDIANAPOLIS—Mayors of cities surrounding the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River are asking Congress to consider increasing federal funding to help the lakes recover from the effects of climate change.

A recent survey involving 241 cities, villages, and other areas surrounding the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River shows that the damages from climate change on the lakes will cost at least $1.94 billion. The surrounding communities have already spent $878 million over the past two years and say they’ll need more to fix the problem.

The communities will spend about $2.25 billion over the next five years; however, the amount is only a part of what’s actually needed to combat erosion and for coastal resilience and mitigation.

According to recent statistics, climate change in the U.S. has led to an increase of almost 2 two degrees Fahrenheit. Its effects in the Great Lakes regions include increased flooding and erosion and extended droughts.

The five Great Lakes provide up to 84% of freshwater for consumption nationally. The lakes touch eight U.S. states — Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin as well as the province of Ontario, Canada.

According to the Great Lakes Echo, the shoreline of the lakes combined is almost as much as the shorelines of the Atlantic Ocean and the West Coast.

“I can’t speak for each community of why they don’t have the resources, but it really comes down to the ability to fund,” said Jonathan Altenberg, executive director of Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.

“On top of funding, it also comes down to resources that they have to be able to put against it. But without the money and the resources, it’s very difficult. It also comes down to understanding, understanding of the problem and solutions that are available. They don’t even know where to start, especially our small communities.”

Back in the 1980s, the U.S. and Canada released a list of areas that have been affected by degraded shorelines, among them 26 in the U.S. and 17 areas in Canada. But, for the past years, only four cities have been removed from the list.

In 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was created to address the issues. But most of the issues remain.

“While water levels in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River basin are naturally variable with cyclical highs and lows, climate change is exacerbating these fluctuations, with water levels reaching record highs in recent years,” Mayor Walter Sendzik of St. Catharines, Ontario Chair of the Cities Initiative, said in a statement.

“High water levels, paired with severe storm events and wave action, are leading to greater erosion and flooding that threaten public and private properties, critical infrastructure, and recreation and tourism amenities in shoreline communities.”

Carolina Puga Mendoza is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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