A program that has made huge progress in cleaning up the Great Lakes would be essentially defunded under a budget proposal from the Trump administration.
Dr. Valerie Brady is associate director of research at Minnesota Sea Grant, which is part of the University of Minnesota system. She says the funding is crucial to prevent the spread of invasive species into the Great Lakes. Fishermen and boaters are educated so they clean their vessels so they don’t unwittingly move these species from place to place.
“GLRI money has been hugely helpful in getting that message out across all the Great Lakes states but very particularly in Minnesota, to make sure that we are really slowing down the spread of zebra mussels, spiny water flea and Eurasian watermilfoil,” she said.
The initiative has restored about 150 thousand acres of wetlands, kept more than 160 thousand pounds of phosphorus each year from reaching the Great Lakes, and is fully engaged in the battle to keep Asian carp out of Lake Michigan.
Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, says the cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could drop the funding from $300 million to $10 million, and it would have a direct, daily impact on more than 20 million people who rely on the lakes for drinking water.
“Funding cuts of this magnitude would be devastating and would essentially stop restoration efforts in their tracks, restoration efforts that are not only of tremendous benefit to the environment of the Great Lakes, but are a direct economic boost to the region,” she explained.
Ambs says potential cuts to other agencies are troubling as well.
“And if you cut the base budgets for everybody from EPA and NOAA, to Fish and Wildlife Service, to USGS, and the Army Corps, it will just make it impossible for those critical federal agencies to be able to work together and respond to those threats in the future” she added.
In past years, support for the initiative has been bipartisan, with Congressional members from both parties joining to block proposed cuts like these.