Pictured is a view of Lake Michigan in Muskegon.

Pictured is a view of Lake Michigan in Muskegon.

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Great Lakes funding may face $270M cut

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published February 19, 2018

METRO DETROIT — President Donald Trump, for the second consecutive year, has proposed a massive budget cut for the Environmental Protection Agency and funding for the Great Lakes.

The 160-page document, titled ‘An American Budget,” states that “This new course has unleashed liberty and opportunity. It also makes the tough choices to produce a more efficient, effective and accountable government.”

On Feb. 12, the White House released the proposed $1.2 trillion budget for the next fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, which would cut EPA funding by approximately $2.8 billion — a 34 percent decrease from the enacted levels in 2017.

It would reduce funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, or GLRI, from approximately $300 million to $30 million. Last year’s budget proposed cuts from $300 million to $10 million. Other larger water bodies affected would include the Gulf of Mexico and Puget Sound.

The interagency GLRI started in 2010 as a means of cleaning up the Great Lakes and their beaches and waterways, and of fighting invasive species like Asian carp. The program has enjoyed strong bipartisan support in U.S. Congress throughout the years. The state of Michigan alone has received more than $600 million in funding since the GLRI’s establishment.

Former U.S. Congresswoman and current Macomb County Public Works Commissioner Candice Miller — prior to a Feb. 13 announcement of the Detroit Zoo’s intention to build a $10 million, 20,000-square-foot eco-friendly facility on a county waterfront location — touted the importance of the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“In addition to being a beautiful and bountiful resource for tourism and recreation in Macomb County, the Great Lakes serve as a major thoroughfare for transportation and trade,” Miller said in a statement. “The Great Lakes Nature Center will play a significant role in educating the community about protecting this valuable natural resource.”

In 2014, the University Research Corridor released a report showing that Michigan’s “blue economy” accounted for 718,000 — or one in five — jobs in areas such as engineering and infrastructure, as well as in industries like agriculture, fishing and tourism.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich, who authored the original initiative, lamented the fact that despite strong bipartisan support, the president is pushing for further cuts.

 “If there’s one thing we’ve learned, we can’t take it for granted that others understand how important our water is,” Stabenow said in a press release. “This is outrageous. People across Michigan spoke out and took action last year to stop these cuts, and I know they’ll do so again.”

In a Feb. 13 statement, U.S. Rep. Paul Mitchell, R-District 10, said he approves of many things in Trump’s budget, but the GLRI cuts are not one of them. In November 2017, Mitchell sent a bipartisan letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of the office of budget and management, asking for $300 million.

U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, is a co-chair on the House Great Lakes Task Force, which includes Mitchell and members of Congress from Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota and New York. The bipartisan task force works to provide and maintain the economic and environmental health of the Great Lakes.

“The bipartisan Great Lakes delegation is united in its support of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which has made so much progress in cleaning up the largest surface freshwater system in the world,” the co-chairs said in a joint statement. “Much work remains, however, to deal with both the legacy pollutants, as well as the new threats of harmful algal blooms and invasive species like Asian carp.

“Therefore, we were all very disappointed to see that the president’s budget once again fails to recognize the value of GLRI and the importance of the lakes to our region.”

Staff Writer Sarah Wojcik contributed to this story.