Funding would create Wisconsin jobs as unemployment rises

WASHINGTON, D.C. β€” A budget proposal released Thursday by President Obama provides $475 million in funding for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that could create thousands of Wisconsin jobs just as new figures show the state’s unemployment rate jumped 1.8 percent in January alone.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provides the opportunity to restore our economy as well as the Great Lakes by putting Wisconsinites to work protecting a national treasure,” said Melissa Malott, water program director at Clean Wisconsin, the state’s largest environmental advocacy organization.

The $475 million outlined in the President’s proposal would create jobs addressing the problem of invasive species, reducing pollution that runs off of farmlands and city streets, as well as restoring marine wildlife habitats. The plan was announced as the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development released information showing the state’s unemployment rate jumped to 7.6 percent, 1.8 percent higher then December’s numbers, and 2.7 percentage points higher than January 2008.

Beyond creating new jobs, funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would help protect existing jobs and reduce unnecessary economic losses incurred from invasive species and pollution. A recent study found that the impact of invasive species alone costs the Great Lakes Region over $200 million annually. Non-native mussels attach themselves to boats and clog industrial infrastructure, while algae blooms create foul smells that decrease tourism and diminish property values.

“The health of Wisconsin’s economy is solidly rooted in the health of the Great Lakes,” Malott said. “Funding to restore the Great Lakes will protect jobs in the tourism, fishing, and shipping industries as well as create thousands of new, family-supporting jobs in Wisconsin at a time when we need it most.”

The proposed funding of the Initiative is subject to the approval of Congress, and may require states to match expenditures.

“In these tough economic times, we applaud President Obama’s plan to create jobs as well as his recognition of the importance of the Great Lakes to our state and to our region,” Malott said. “We urge our leaders in Congress to energize our economy and protect our magnificent lakes by approving the funding for the Initiative.”