By Dan Shapley
Great Lakes Study, Hidden Inexplicably, Finds Pleasure Boating Worth $16 Billion
A study that the Army Corps of Engineers has inexplicably failed to release to the public founds that recreational boating on the Great Lakes is worth $16 billion annually -- nearly four times the value of commercial shipping, valued in a previous study at $4.3 billion. The scale of the mismatch is surprising, though the importance of the international trade route that enters and exits the Great Lakes through the St. Lawrence Seaway can't be understated. The figures will surely call into question federal spending on navigation, however. How much the Army Corps, as a federal agency, can divert spending toward local recreational projects, rather than those that affect interstate and international trade, remains to be seen. Beyond the policy implications, the study shows -- like similar studies of the economic value of birding and the like -- that a high quality environment is good for business, generates jobs (more than 100,000 in the case of the Great Lakes) and can drive the economy. Studies like this should put to rest the old belief that economic development has to come at the expense of the environment. Clearly, it does not.