Great Lakes clean up to bring $914M economic benefit for Hamilton by 2032: report

A report published by The International Association for Great Lakes Research looked at Hamilton Harbour and nine other waterways. It found that restoring the most polluted waters led to economic benefits.

The report expects a total benefit of $914 million to the city by 2032

Restoration projects will encourage tourists and businesses to set up shop in Hamilton, report says. (John Rieti/CBC)

According to a new report, the cleanup of Hamilton Harbour will come with an economic benefit of almost a billion dollars. 

The International Association for Great Lakes Research study looked at Hamilton Harbour and nine other waterways in Canada and the U.S. to evaluate their cleanups and how they have revitalized the surrounding areas. It says that the restoration of the most polluted waters has resulted in financial gains. 

The report projects that all remedial projects in Hamilton will have a cumulative total benefit to the city of $914 million by 2032, with $126 million of that being Randle Reef alone. 

Gail Krantzberg, co-editor of the report and professor at McMaster University, said that this could help Hamilton leave its polluted reputation behind. 

"If you remove that stigma, local property owners and business are benefiting," she said. "[Hamilton can] be a place that is healthy and vibrant, and it can legitimately market itself that way."

The final uses of the Randle Reef facility are projected to provide $245 million in economic benefits. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

It's not just an academic exercise

The report focuses on Randle Reef, the largest contaminated sediment remediation project in the Canadian Great Lakes, and the $139 million undertaking to cleanup the bottom of the harbour. There's enough contaminated sediment here to "fill a major hockey arena three times over." 

It's expected that completing this project will encourage tourists and businesses to consider Hamilton. It's also expected that Hamilton Port Authority will be able to expand its operations. Randle Reef is currently in its second of three stages, which is expected to be completed by the end of 2019. 

What this report shows, Krantzberg said, is that we don't have to "sacrifice the economy for the environment."

"[The stories] show our governments... that the money you're investing in Great Lakes revitalization pays back enormously in economic gains," she said. "The more you invest in Great Lakes excellence, the more it pays back." 

She stressed the political timeliness of this report given the upcoming federal election and current re-negotiations of the Canada-Ontario Great Lakes Agreement, which directly influence the actions taken to protect the Great Lakes. 

"This is a report being sent to decision makers in all order of government on both sides of the border," she said. "It's not just an academic exercise." 

Restoring the Hamilton Harbour, and eliminating risks like toxic algae, is projected to mean big bucks in return for the city. (City of Hamilton)

Right now, restoration of the Hamilton Harbour is still in progress. Among other impairments, its list includes degradation of fish and wildlife populations, undesirable algae, beach closings, and loss of habitat. 

But the positives are starting to appear. Kantzberg pointed out that these projects mean the creation of jobs. She also added that after several decades, Caspian terns — migratory birds — have started returning. 

"Things get better incrementally. Celebrate the things that start coming back as the city's harbour changes, as it comes back to a healthier state," she said. "Hold on to the positives and know that there's more positive coming." 

The report says that the final uses of Randle Reef are projected to provide $245 million in economic benefits.

Other Canadian sites included in the report were Toronto, Collingwood, and Severn Sound. 


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