Mayors around Great Lakes say federal assistance needed to combat coastal erosion

Published: Jul. 20, 2021 at 2:53 PM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A coalition of more than 120 U.S. and Canadian mayors around the Great Lakes say they need massive federal assistance.

They estimate coastal damage from climate change will cost more than $2 billion over the next five years, including $245 million in Wisconsin.

High water levels and more frequent severe storms are raising concerns after a survey this spring by The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative revealed the tremendous impact high water levels and severe storms are having around the Great Lakes.

In the last two years alone, it’s cost Wisconsin shoreline communities $86 million.

“It’s causing significant damage to infrastructure of our coastlines. You’re talking about loss of beaches, you’re talking about damage to buildings, you’re talking about damage to park lands that are significant, private homes,” says Jon Altenberg, Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative Executive Director.

“We’re seeing firsthand the impact that climate change has our our shoreline in a variety of different ways when you’re talking about homeowners that live close to the lake that are seeing their slopes and their shoreline slowly deteriorate and fall into the lake, when we have small businesses that are located on our riverfront or our lakefront that are putting out sandbags because of high water rising,” adds Sheboygan Mayor Eric Sorenson.

Sorenson says with most city budgets already stretched thin, spending millions each year to combat erosion issues is nearly impossible.

That’s why The Cities Initiative is sending a clear and urgent message to Congress.

“As far as the infrastructure bill, we are asking for $2 billion to be earmarked towards Great Lakes and St. Lawrence issues when it comes to erosion,” says Altenberg.

Mayors around the Great Lakes are hoping a unified voice will help them receive the funds they say are critical.

“This collaborative voice of Democrats, Republicans, Independents from the United States and Canada that truly see what is going on in some of our major waterways in North America I think is powerful,” says Sorenson.

Mayors in shoreline communities are now calling on citizens to contact their elected officials to urge them to support federal assistance.

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