Lake Erie Protections on Chopping Block in Trump Budget?
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Ohio's U.S. senators are joining hundreds of others in asking federal leaders not to drain investments in the health of Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.
President Donald Trump is expected to release his budget plan next week, which is said to drop funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million annually to $10 million.
Joy Mulinex, vice president of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy in northern Ohio, says it would stop restoration efforts in their tracks.
"Funding levels that are being discussed would take us back to a time when Great Lakes restoration was marked more by wishful thinking than on the ground results,” she states. “Communities would continue to grapple with drinking water restrictions, fish consumption advisories and closed beaches – a state of affairs that undermines public health and economic development."
U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman of Ohio, along with other members of the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency requesting that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative be fully funded.
Thousands of projects over the past eight years have addressed invasive species, algal blooms and other threats to Great Lakes' health, Mulinex says.
She adds the conservancy’s work to address toxic hot spots has resulted in the cleanup of several waterways, including the Ashtabula River.
"The river has been the focus of Great Lakes Restoration investments and is now waiting to be delisted,” she states. “The river supports boating and fishing, and is a great source of community pride. These are the kinds of projects that are benefiting communities around the region."
Chad Lord, policy director of Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, explains the proposed budget also could recommend slashing EPA funding, which affects restoration work.
"The proposed cuts would decimate the Environmental Protection Agency, and other agencies themselves,” he points out. “It is folly to think that nation's waters can be protected and restored without resources and agency staff to help us and partner with the region."
Lord notes that funding for Great Lakes restoration received bipartisan support in both Bush administrations and during President Barack Obama's terms in office.