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Conservationists Blast Trump Proposal for Great Lakes

Cuts to the Great Lakes cleanup fund could negatively impact many Michigan cities, advocates say. (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
Cuts to the Great Lakes cleanup fund could negatively impact many Michigan cities, advocates say. (AcryllicArtist/morguefile)
March 7, 2017

LANSING, Mich. – Conservationists say there's nothing great about the White House plan to slash funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and they're calling on Congress and the president to leave the lakes out of partisan politics.

President Trump's 2018 budget proposal would slash annual funding for the Environmental Protection Agency's $300 million program to just $10 million.

Sean McBrearty, a campaign organizer with Clean Water Action Michigan, says the program has played a critical role in funding the restoration of wildlife habitat, efforts to combat invasive species such as Asian carp, and the cleanup of polluted watersheds. He says the welfare of the lakes has implications far beyond the state borders.

"With the Great Lakes containing 20 percent of the world's fresh water, this is something that we can't wait on and say, 'Well, what's going to happen if we don't fund it?'" he said. "We don't have to look to see environmental devastation that was really caused by budget cuts and bad decisions."

Both Michigan senators have spoken out against the proposal, calling it "outrageous," while a bipartisan coalition of mayors of Great Lakes cities in the United States and Canada says the plan would be devastating to both countries.

McBrearty notes that just a few decades ago, pollution was so bad that Lake Erie was literally on fire, and in 2014 a toxic algae bloom cut off the drinking water supply for Toledo, Ohio, and parts of Michigan. He warns that not protecting the Great Lakes will have a profound impact on the entire state.

"Especially in our communities up north, that really do rely on tourism for a lot of the economic activity going on up there," he explained. "And once the Asian carp start getting into the Great Lakes, we're going to, what? Have restaurants where they're serving carp 10 ways and nothing else?"

In addition to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the White House also is proposing major cuts to water-pollution cleanup programs in the country's two largest estuaries, Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI