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Trump Budget Called a 'Big Step Backward' for Great Lakes

Algal blooms can cause fish kills and produce conditions that are dangerous to humans. (smspsy/Adobe Stock)
Algal blooms can cause fish kills and produce conditions that are dangerous to humans. (smspsy/Adobe Stock)
February 14, 2020

ALBANY, N.Y. - Drastic cuts to clean water programs in the Trump administration's proposed national budget would be a big loss for the Great Lakes, according to groups that advocate for water quality.

The budget proposal would maintain the current level of funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $320 million.

But according to Laura Rubin, director the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition, cuts proposed for other programs would undermine efforts to reduce algal blooms and invasive species, and to repair the infrastructure that keeps pollution from entering the Great Lakes in the first place.

"These cuts are many and they're drastic," says Rubin. "Programs on the chopping block include those that support science and research, environmental justice issues, Asian carp management, to name a few."

The Coalition estimates that New York alone will need almost $54 million over the next 20 years to repair and replace crumbling drinking-water and wastewater infrastructure.

Chad Lord, the Coalition's policy director, says the president's budget cuts funding for one program that helps communities pay for sewer upgrades and repairs by almost a half-billion dollars.

"Many local and state governments are cash-strapped and depend on the federal government and its partnership with those communities to help pay to provide essential clean water services," says Lord.

The president's budget also would cut the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund by almost $266 million.

These budget cuts follow the Trump administration's major rollback of clean water regulations last month. Rubin says maintaining level funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is important, but it isn't enough.

"Great Lakes protection is not a partisan issue," says Rubin. "And one budget line item cannot erase an overall budget that contains drastic cuts to essential clean water programs."

She says the Healing Our Waters - Great Lakes Coalition will be in Washington, DC, next month to urge Congress to make full funding of clean water programs a top priority.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY