President Donald Trump has proposed to cut the annual $300 million used to restore the Great Lakes. In response to the budget cut, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations has drafted new legislation to return this money to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative under the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. The bill passed in the House Committee on Appropriations by a vote of 30-21 on July 18 but still needs to pass the House chamber and then in the Senate.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, launched by Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2010, aims to protect and clean the Great Lakes, as well as control invasive species, among other goals. Amid concern the program would be terminated by the budget proposal, Stabenow led a bipartisan effort in early May to restore funding for the fiscal year 2017. 

The new bill, which would take effect on October 1, provides funding for the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service and the Environmental Protection Agency, among other environment-related groups.

U.S. Representative and Interior Subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert (R–California) found the bill useful for specific groups aimed at environmental preservation.

“The agencies funded in the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill do important work protecting public lands, the air we breathe, and the water we drink,” Calvert said in a press release“Our subcommittee prioritized proven programs that have a meaningful impact to achieve these goals while also ensuring our economy can continue to grow.”                           

Trump’s proposed budget eliminates the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative entirely with the hope that state and local agencies would be “capable of taking on management of clean-up and restoration of these water bodies,” according to a statement from the Office of Management and Budget. Since 2010, the OMB has funded over $2.2 billion in protection and improvement programs for the Great Lakes.

Public Health junior Jeff Sondheimer found the budget cuts to be questionable. He argues the nation’s public health is at risk once the environment is compromised. All in all, Sondheimer is hopeful that though it won’t go towards preserving the Great Lakes, the money will be used to better society in a different way.

“I do not know President Trump’s motivation behind cutting major funding to the preservation of the Great Lakes,” Sondheimer said. “As a public health major, I am aware, however, that the environment plays a major role in the health of a society. Environmental disasters, natural or human induced, have lead to numerous public health crises worldwide.”

In a message, Yousef Rabhi (D–Ann Arbor) wrote though the bill is a step in the right direction, more needs to be done in order to counter Trump’s budget proposal. 

“With millions of dollars in cuts to the EPA and National Park Service this jobs-killing budget bill is contrary to our shared American heritage,” he wrote. “While it’s an improvement over the president’s recklessly un-American budget proposal, this congressional budget bill is still a far cry from what we need right now to protect some of our nations most treasured assets.”

A major concern with the proposed budget cuts is the future of the Great Lakes. U.S. Representative David Joyce (R–Ohio) explained the importance of the preservation of the large bodies of freshwater in a press release. Joyce represents Ohio’s 14th Congressional District along Lake Erie.

“This is about where we swim, where we fish, and most importantly where we draw our drinking water,” he said. “Multiple administrations have yet to see the wisdom of protecting this national treasure at the levels it deserves and it is incumbent that the Great Lakes legislators continue to do the heavy lifting to protect it.”

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