It's hard to find a downside to a joint U.S.-Canadian project announced Monday that will, among other things, provide a cache of information that can be used to set long-term policies and goals for the Great Lakes.
The Great Lakes Futures Project of the Transborder Research University Network isn't well known presently. But we expect that to change.
Some 20 universities, including the University of Michigan, will lead the effort to find ways to protect and restore the Great Lakes going forward many years.
Statistically, the stakes are sky high. More than 80 percent of the fresh water in North America and 20 percent of the planet's fresh water is in the Great Lakes basin.
About 35 million people live in the basin; nearly one third of Canada's overall population and more than 10 percent of the U.S. population. According to one study, over the next two decades, another 20 million people in both countries are expected to relocate to cities, towns and other locations in the Great Lakes basin.
Graduate students from the Canadian and U.S. universities that are participating will conduct the research and prepare the materials, considering the last 50 years, while looking ahead another 50.
Many variables will be considered, things like energy policies, climate change, invasive species, societal values and geopolitics.
The student work should be complete by January.
The goal here is to establish a series of non-partisan recommendations both countries can rely on to develop viable policies and plans. Given the importance of the Great Lakes, it's a laudable goal.
We like the multi-national cooperation this effort includes. And from what we can see, there doesn't seem to be the stain of partisanship on the project, which, in our eyes, elevates its viability from the get go.
We wish them well and look forward to reviewing their work in January.