President Biden Announces Great Lake Cleanup, Declares New Era for Middle Class Ohioans

President Biden delivered remarks in Lorain on Feb. 17, announcing a $1 billion program to clean up and restore the Great Lakes as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law, which he boasted as the most significant investment in roads and bridges and highways in nearly 70 years.

Biden spoke at The Shipyards about the law’s impact for Ohioans in rebuilding roads and bridges, restoring water infrastructure, and facilitating union job growth. The President painted a conceptual picture of the Great Lakes funding, highlighting “the historic investment we’re making to restore the Great Lakes, strengthen the region’s economy, provide clean drinking water, clean up our communities, and create good-paying jobs.”

“The historic investment…,” Biden said, “we’re making to restore the Great Lakes, strengthen the region’s economy, provide clean drinking water, clean up our communities, and create good-paying jobs.”

Biden provided key figures on Ohio job creation. “It’s going to create 10,000 jobs…” Biden said, “and, by the way, 7,000 jobs constructing this massive facility and 3,000 jobs running the facility, making an average salary at that facility of $135,000 a year, blue-collar workers. Pretty good money.”

President Joe Biden speaks on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. (Alexis Watkins)

While the law will send $242 million to Ohio in the first year, the infrastructure process will take years to actualize. Initiatives like The Great Lakes cleanup, which spans six states, including Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, New York, will come to fruition by 2030.

Biden credited Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat who joined the President on stage, for her efforts to communicate the Great Lakes’ importance. Biden spoke of a letter Kaptur gave him at a joint session of Congress last year.

“She described…,” Biden said, “the treasure the Great Lakes are. They connect eight states, two nations. They provide more drinking water than any set of lakes in the world, that more than 40 million people benefit from that. They support more than 1,300,000 jobs in manufacturing, tourism, transportation, warehousing, farming, and fishing. And they’re essential to shipping goods made in the Midwest, all across the country, and around the world.”

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan spoke before the President, who introduced Biden, said a community like Lorain would see vast returns from the funding.

“At the heart of this law is an inherent understanding that protecting the environment and protecting the economy are not mutually exclusive, they actually go hand-in-hand,” Regan said. “And nowhere is that more evident than when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes.”

The law will dedicate resources to the cleanup of Cuyahoga, Black, and Maumee Rivers, and Biden’s remarks echoed Reagan’s sentiments about environmental cleanup.

“Pollution from industry…” Biden said, “runoff from agriculture, poor wastewater treatment put the Great Lakes and everyone who depends on them at risk. And our mutual nations made a commitment to clean them up, to be good partners, to protect these shared treasures. And for decades, there was a lot of talk, a lot of plans, but very little progress. It was slow. That changes today.”

The Biden Administration has emphasized connecting with cities and localities to implement legislation like the American Rescue Plan. Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley spoke highly of the administration’s work. “Because of our President Joe Biden…,” he said, “we received direct funding…under the American Rescue Plan Act to help cities in the United States that suffered because of the pandemic. Now, he’s giving to us and the entire United States this bipartisan infrastructure.”

Aside from announcing the funding, Biden also used the trip to promote the work of several Democrats up for re-election in Ohio’s soon-to-be newly redrawn congressional districts.

Along with Kaptur, Biden spotlighted the pivotal roles of Congresswoman Rep. Shontel Brown of Warrensville Heights and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. Newly elected mayors Justin Bibb of Cleveland and Sharetta Smith of Lima also joined the crowd.

As President Biden leads the new guard of Democrats into the 2022 midterm elections, the Democratic messaging features the bipartisan infrastructure law as arguably the Democrats’ signature accomplishment.