Great Lakes funding in peril under Trump’s budget proposal

Michigan as seen from space on Nov. 15, 2015.

WASHINGTON (WOOD) — President Donald Trump unveiled his proposed budget plan Thursday, which includes eliminating funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute says the five-year plan which appropriates $300 million each year goes toward a sweeping effort to restore the Great Lakes.

The institute says the cuts were to pass through Congress it would have a severe impact on restoration.

“I think you know the proposed cuts are extreme, they’re problematic, they send the wrong message in my opinion,” Annis Water Resources Institute Director Alan Steinman said.

Steinman says the cuts would not only have environmental impacts but also on the local economy.

“There’s some demonstrable things that will happen quickly. Projects that are ongoing right now will stop. The people that are being employed as part of those projects will either have to find other work within the private or public sector or they’re going to go on unemployment,” Steinman said.

He says it’d be difficult to start projects up again if they were left for years without any work.

“A lot of these projects involve moving dirt, large machinery and they move on to other stuff. You know they can only mobilize for a short period of time,” Steinman said.

Here’s a full list of those focus areas the funding goes toward:

  • Toxic substances and areas of concern
  • Invasive species
  • Nonpoint source pollution impacts on nearshore health
  • Habitats and species
  • Foundations for future restoration actions

Projects like preventing and controlling invasive species and reducing runoff that contributes to algae blooms are a part of the initiative.

“Bring back the wildlife that you know used to be here, restoring wetlands so they act as natural buffers,” Steinman said.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in our state have criticized the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts.

Without the support of lawmakers in the Great Lakes region it would be difficult to defund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“The reality is you know we’re eight states, that’s 16 senators and you know to change things you need 50 plus one in the Senate,” Steinman said.

In Trump’s proposal it said the budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing Environment Protection Agency to focus on its highest national priorities.

In a press call Thursday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow said it was unlikely the state and local counties would be able to foot the bill for projects like these.

“I think there is a very important why the federal government needs to be partnering with our Great Lakes states,” Stabenow said.

It’s an issue that has bipartisan support in Michigan.

“It’s vital to the ecological health of not only Michigan but the surrounding area and frankly I think for the country,” Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland.