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Great News via the Infrastructure Bill

No matter how you read it, this is good news for the future of boating interests around the country.

First, three major tributaries flowing into Lake Erie — and used by boaters — will receive $1 billion for cleanup and restoration, according to an announcement by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. But it doesn’t stop there. Many ports and waterways around the nation will benefit from $16 billion more in grants to help alleviate congestion in the integrated supply chain that marine manufacturers and dealers rely on.

The billions come from the $1 trillion bipartisan Infrastructure Bill that Congress passed late last year.

In Lake Erie, three major rivers designated “degraded areas of concern” will see cleanup activities: the Black River, west of Cleveland; the Cuyahoga River, which runs through downtown Cleveland; and the Maumee River, which enters the western end of the lake at Toledo.

Lake Erie has the warmest waters and most productive sport fishing of the five Great Lakes. It also provides drinking water for 12 million people.

The funds will also be used to address harmful algae blooms, which plague Erie’s western basin, as well as more actions to protect against further establishment of invasive species, such as Asian carp.

Why these three rivers? They are major waterways that wind through heavy industrial areas of the past but are now home to launch ramps, marinas, waterfront restaurants and more. The Industrial Revolution caused all manner of toxic effluent to be dumped into these rivers, flowing past chemical plants, steel mills and the like.

Passage of the Clean Water Act of 1972 began the process of stopping pollution from cities and industries. And Lake Erie today boasts outstanding walleye, smallmouth bass and steelhead fishing. Great fishing is just one of the reasons Ohio ranks sixth nationally in registered boats. I should know: I lived on and fished Erie waters for 38 years.

However, there’s still a problem. The mud and silt on the bottom of these rivers still contain myriad chemicals from when the “Rust Belt” was booming. The funds from the Infrastructure Bill will finally clean up those rivers. There were 31 “toxic hot spots” designated around the Great Lakes in 1987. Many have been addressed, and officials project that with steady funding the work on 28 of those rivers will be accomplished by 2030.

Beyond Lake Erie, the $16 billion earmarked for other ports and waterways around the nation will be used for improving the supply chain issues we continue to face. It’s clear that marine manufacturers rely on a highly integrated supply chain to meet dealer and consumer demand.

The National Marine Manufacturers Association says these port infrastructure grants, dubbed the “Port Action Plan,” will help alleviate congestion and strengthen the supply chains to boating. The grants also meet policy recommendations in the Department of Transportation’s recent supply chain report focused on improving the movement of goods from ships to factories to shelves.

As we look at boat sales, the funding for clean water and solving supply chain problems are cornerstones for our continued growth.

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