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🗣️ "A Force Multiplier for the Great Lakes"


Photo by Srikanth Peetha / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Travis Loop
Guest: David Rankin | Executive Director | Great Lakes Protection Fund
Category: 🗣️ Opinion

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[2:36] “I've seen articles calling for the interstate highway system for water [from the Great Lakes to the West] […]. That's not a new idea. It's something that comes up as droughts get worse or candidly here in this region as lake levels or flooding increases. The reason it hasn't happened is probably the reason it won't happen. […] Water is heavy stuff. […] It's 8.5 pounds per gallon and moving it over the Rockies is a pretty big challenge. In the past there were proposals for everything from coal slurry pipelines to recharging the Ogallala Aquifer. The number of power plants required simply to move the water around is staggering.”

[3:45] “But the biggest barrier […] is a legal barrier. The states in the Great Lakes have built not just an interstate compact, but a series of international agreements with Canada to keep this water in place. It's 20% of the world's fresh surface water. It's the foundation of our economy. And it is something that as long as we are careful stewards of it should remain here. And the likelihood that we will see a massive diversion is pretty small, given the strength of the legal protections that we have here. Not just domestically but internationally. […] We're willing to be of assistance but assistance in how to manage water and not how to supply water.

[5:32] “The lake shores are dynamic. Water levels go up, water levels come down. And of late, those changes have been happening faster than they have before. So when levels are high, it can be a problem. Erosion on the shores, inundation of lake side property are things that our region has struggled with.”

[7:14] “The [Great Lakes Protection] fund is the world's first impact investor, where the beneficiary is an ecosystem. We were created 32 years ago, to produce a continuous stream of innovation to make us better […]as a region at the shared stewardship of this vast resource. So the fund is an interesting critter. We're a private, not for profit corporation, literally owned by seven governors. The governors elected board, the board hires me and we have taken $81 million of public capital invested in in capital markets, turned it into about $250 million of income that we've used to […] drive a whole set of new ways of doing things here, ranging from technologies that can help us keep invasive species out of the system to restoration strategies that take advantage of the physical properties of the system to drive both chemical and biological change. […] There's literally nothing like it anywhere else on the globe.”

[13:37] “The challenge […] and the opportunity that we have at the fund is to take that $4 to $6 million a year of mission spend, and make the other $16 billion [of total spending stream in the region] smarter and more effective. So our charge and the reason the governors stood us up to provide this continuous stream of innovation is to grow the effectiveness of the spending in the region, independent of whether the total spend grows. […] We want to be sure that every unit of effort put into Great Lakes work or activities related to the Great Lakes have the best possible restoration outcomes that they can. So our portfolio of programming is really designed to be a force multiplier with the other spending.”

[31:27] “In 1995, there was a very important scientific paper written […], where some principles they articulated […] gripped us at the fund. What they identified was a set of relationships between the hydrology of rivers and streams, and the ecology and biology that emerges from that hydrology. They […] described […] a master variable for aquatic health. And that is five facets of how water moves. That is how fast it moves, how fast the movement changes, […] the frequency of flow events, and its pattern over the years. […] And a couple of other features that were articulated. So they had the appearance to us at the fund of [being] management levers. These are […] knobs and dials that we can turn by activities in stream or on the land that can really help drive ecological restoration. And we launched […] a portfolio of projects that really built out the practical way you take that concept and turn it into restoration on the land.”

[38:05] “Like any ecosystem of this size or importance, it is not hard to find problems. […] I think […] the solutions are in some of the dynamics around those problems. […] When we have internal discussions about lake levels, and lake level change, and things like that, it's easy to get stuck in first order relationships. […] I think our interest is probably in the intersection of the increase in speed of lake level change, the ability to get high highs very quickly and to go from high highs to low lows very quickly. That is going to force us to think differently about the assets we want to protect and those assets are probably going to have a process dimension to them rather than an address dimension to them.”

Rating: 💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple | Spotify
🕰️ 44 min | 🗓️ 08/16/2021
✅ Time saved: 42 min