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Scientists Make Plea to Congress: Don't Chop Great Lakes Funding

Funds to restore the Great Lakes are on the chopping block. (epa.gov)
Funds to restore the Great Lakes are on the chopping block. (epa.gov)
March 20, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS -- Congress has been getting an earful over the past few days about President Trump's plan to gut the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Groups representing an eight-state region have been descending on Washington to push back against huge cuts planned for environmental programs.

Scientists from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania have been lobbying members of Congress to save the program that removes toxic waste from industrial harbors, fights invasive species such as the Asian Carp, and restores wildlife habitats.

Todd Ambs with the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, said budgetary cuts would hamper efforts to respond to environmental emergencies such as those in Flint, Michigan, and East Chicago in the Hoosier State.

"And if you cut the base budgets for everybody from EPA and NOAA to Fish and Wildlife Service, to USGS, and the Army Corps, it will just make it impossible for those critical federal agencies to be able to work together and respond to these threats in the future,” Ambs said.

Hundreds of residents in East Chicago have been dealing with high levels of lead contamination. Gov. Eric Holcomb's office said the state is working on finding funding to buy water filters for those homes.

Darrell Gerber, natural resource associate with the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, has spent the last few days at the nation's capitol. He and others are urging members of Congress to vote against gutting the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which could lose about 97 percent of its funds.

"It's been a program that has had really strong bipartisan support,” Gerber said. "It certainly was proposed by the Obama administration, but some of its strongest supporters have been Republicans in Congress."

Environmental groups say the president's plan threatens the drinking water supply of more than 40 million people. Trump has vowed to cut spending for agencies such as the EPA in order to boost the defense budget.

More information is available at EPA.gov.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN