We are a river city

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If not for Duluth's fortuitous location on the greatest of the Great Lakes, our Zenith City would be heralded as a Great City on a Great River. Duluth's 20-plus miles of shoreline is evenly distributed between the St. Louis River and Lake Superior.

Unfortunately, previous generations polluted the river. Consequently, for decades, many within our community turned away from the river and the pollution it contained. Fortunately, in 1987, the St. Louis River was identified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency as an Area of Concern. This identification initiated the healing of our beloved river. Apparently, things had to get that bad before they could get this good.

The river's Area of Concern includes Duluth and Superior, the Nemadji River Watershed, the Fond du Lac Reservation and 10 miles up the North Shore. The Remedial Action Plan, initiated by the Environmental Protection Agency, was completed in 2013. Yet, there is an ambitious amount of work that remains.

The subsequent, current cleanup includes more than 40 partner organizations. It is scheduled to continue through 2020. The St. Louis River Alliance is a key partner is this reclamation effort. The Alliance's goals include advocating and sponsoring stewardship, as well as promoting sound management of the resources provided by the river. It embraces its leadership role in protecting, restoring and enhancing the river.

The Duluth Area Chamber also understands the importance that a clean and healthy St. Louis River has to our beloved community. Our Chamber's 2016 Action Plan includes the specific goal of advocating for the implementation of the St. Louis River Corridor Plan. The corridor plan is predicated on protecting, restoring and enhancing the St. Louis River.

We understand and appreciate how the cleanup of the river will continue to reap economic benefits across the region. Studies show a $3 return for every dollar spent on the restoration. Shoreline property values are rising. The increased recreational use of the river is generating additional tourism revenue which contributes to the funding of our basic city services, such as our police and fire departments.

The Chamber is committed to reminding our business community regarding the value the river brings to us all. The restoration initiative is already broadly supported by several businesses within our river city.

Yet, we need to know more about the river. As a result, we have arranged to have Kris Elders, the executive director of the St. Louis River Alliance, meet with our members in early June. Kris will apprise us of the Alliance's efforts, the condition of the river and the plans for protecting this community treasure.

We will benefit by gaining insight into how the Alliance is serving as a catalyst in revitalizing our precious river.

David Ross is the president and CEO of the Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at 740-3751 or dross@duluthchamber.com.