Trump administration budget to affect Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

President Donald Trump at a rally in Novi, MI on September 30, 2016.

President Donald Trump at a rally in Novi, MI on September 30, 2016. Buy this photo
Zoey Holmstrom/Daily
Sunday, March 19, 2017 - 8:56pm

President Donald Trump’s preliminary budget proposal — released on Thursday — could sever the $300 million dollars per year Great Lakes Restoration Initiative effort to clean the Great Lakes basin, according to The Detroit News. It would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by almost one-third overall.

The GLRI began in 2010 to protect and restore the Great Lakes. In addition to the clean-up effort, the initiative also aims to control invasive species, reduce nutrient runoff and restore habitats in the region. It operates as a collaboration among states, tribes, municipalities, universities and other organizations, according to its website.

In a statement, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell (D–Mich.) expressed concern that the Trump administration’s new budget distorts national values.

“The budget is a statement of our values as a nation, and the blueprint President Trump released today is an egregious affront to the values I believe set this nation apart in the world,” she said.

She said the GLRI has been a longtime bipartisan priority.

“Those of us who live in the Great Lakes region know that these waters are more than a way of life — they are vital for clean drinking water, jobs and our economy,” she said. “This shortsighted attempt to zero out funding for the GLRI is unacceptable, and I will work diligently with my colleagues — Democrats and Republicans — to fight this effort and other irresponsible cuts that jeopardize our state and the people I represent.”

United States Senator Gary Peters (D–Mich.), who is a ranking nember of the Federal Spending Oversight Subcommittee, released a statement noting the importance of the drinking water provided by the Great Lakes.

“President Trump’s proposed budget makes drastic cuts that will hit Michigan families and businesses in both urban and rural areas especially hard, including cuts to transportation services education, job training, and programs that are essential for protecting the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes, which provide drinking water to 40 million people and support Michigan’s multi-billion-dollar shipping, fishing and agricultural industries,” he stated.

Public Policy junior Rowan Conybeare, chair of the University’s chapter of College Democrats, noted the importance of freshwater and said she felt is wrong to inhibit programs looking to protect the resource.

“The Great Lakes are a water source for about 30 million people,” she said. “They may be Michigan’s number-one resource. I believe any cut in funding to programs that work to protect our water, like the EPA and the Great Lakes Initiative, is dangerous to Michigan’s citizens and wildlife.”

Engineering freshman Lincoln Merrill, publicity chair of the University’s chapter of College Republicans, said though he understands the concern, he does not believe such cuts will actually be enacted in the formal budget proposal, because there are many people on both sides of the aisle who do not agree with it.

“I don’t think it’s going to happen,” he said. “Even though the president proposes a budget, Congress is who actually passes it and they’re never, ever going to pass it. First of all, the Democrats don’t want it. Second, there’s a really interesting fact at play here. Whether you find something in the budget valuable or not depends on where you live. So Republicans from the Great Lakes states are saying: ‘Hold on. No, you’re not going to do this.’ ”

Merrill specifically cited Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin, as an example of a conservative politician who openly opposed the cuts. He said he believes Trump will not include such drastic measures in future proposals once he realizes what will and will not pass Congress.

Immediately after the proposal’s release, Peters, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D–Mich.), and Sen. Rob Portman (R–Ohio) introduced the Great Lakes Fishery Research Authorization Act.

This bipartisan legislation aims to enhance funding, research and fishery management in the region. It grants the United States Geological Survey authority to support fishing, a $7 billion sport and commercial industry, in the region.

Portman, a co-chair of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, said the Great Lakes are an “invaluable” resource to Ohio’s environment and economy.

“By authorizing the USGS’s Great Lakes Science Center for the first time, we are prioritizing the research on fish populations and invasive species used by the Great Lakes states as well as Canada to support the health and growth of our $7 billion fishing industry. This bill will ensure we have the resources to help protect the Great Lakes for generations to come.”