The health of the Great Lakes is in danger, according to statewide lawmakers and environmental leaders, due to budget cuts proposed by President Donald Trump.
The Great Lakes are the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes and the federal government currently spends around $300 million protecting them. Under President Trump’s proposed budget, that spending would be reduced to $5 million.
U.S Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana) says that money wasn’t being wasted.
“You may have heard of Asian carp? There is a full-scale battle on to protect our Great Lakes,” Donnelly says.
And the spending does more than fight invasive species, which threaten the Great Lakes’ $7 billion fishery.
For example, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative — slated for elimination — ensures clean drinking water for 30 million Americans and cleans up some of the most contaminated areas along the Great Lakes, including Indiana Harbor.
Alliance for the Great Lakes President Joel Brammeier says the cuts are “wrong-headed.”
“The Great Lakes really underpin both our health and our economic well being in a way that no other resource in the upper Midwest does,” Brammeier says.
Brammeier does say he’s confident Congress will restore much of this funding, but adds getting them to do so will still be a challenge.
Around a dozen agencies work to protect and restore the Great Lakes, including the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the U.S. Coast Guard. All are facing steep budget cuts. The EPA is among the worst hit with a 31 percent reduction. In an emailed statement, EPA spokeswoman Julia Valentine says the agency is, “redesigning the way we do business to focus on achieving our core responsibilities,” which include protecting clean air and water and investing in infrastructure.
“Administrator Pruitt is committed to leading the EPA in a more effective, more focused, less costly way as we partner with states to fulfill the agency’s core mission,” said Valentine. “We are redesigning the way we do business to focus on achieving our core responsibilities – working with the states to ensure clean and breathable air, protecting water quality and investing in infrastructure, restoring our communities, ensuring timely review of chemicals and products to ensure safety for American families, all of which will have a positive impact on the environment and the economy.”