OTTAWA, Canada: After a meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and US President Joe Biden, Ottawa has pledged to spend more funds to improve water quality in the Great Lakes.
The US administration has also increased funding for the shared waters, which are still suffering from 20th century industrial pollution and new issues, such as climate change and microplastics.
Following the discussion, Trudeau said his government would spend US$306 million over the next decade on the lakes.
Just weeks before the announcement, the US Congress pressured Biden to seek more support for the lakes from Canada, which critics have accused of not doing enough.
"The Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for 40 million people, and this shared resource needs to be protected," Trudeau said.
The world's largest surface freshwater system, the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River provide drinking water for some 40 million people and support the economies of two Canadian provinces and eight US states.
Launched by former President Barack Obama in 2010, the US Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has provided some $4 billion for related projects, with annual spending averaging from $300 million to $400 million.
For the 2024 fiscal year, Congress has authorized $425 million, and an additional $1 billion will be provided by Biden's bipartisan infrastructure law to fund long-term industrial site cleanups.
By comparison, between 2017 and 2022, Canada offered just $33 million for cleanup work.
Those who had demanded greater Canadian contribution lauded Trudeau's pledge.
Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican, said, "This increased funding commitment to help preserve and strengthen the Great Lakes is a welcomed announcement from our neighbors in Canada."
The Great Lakes "are a resource both nations share, and it is incumbent on us all to invest in its health and future," noted Rep. Brian Higgins, a New York Democrat.