Federal spending bill doesn’t touch Great Lakes funding

McLain Park, Lake Superior, sunset
The sunset over Lake Superior at McLain Park on the Keweenaw Peninsula. (Courtesy Thurston De Vos, file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan’s congressional delegation is claiming a victory for maintaining funding that they say is vital for the Great Lakes.

Democrats and Republicans from around the Great Lakes region launched a bipartisan effort to push back against a proposal to end funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program popular among lawmakers and lake enthusiasts alike that supports everything from recreational activities to jobs to helping avoid or eliminate invasive species.

President Donald Trump’s original budget would have done away with the dollars dedicated to the project, but a deal reached Sunday to fund the federal government until the end of the fiscal year leaves the money in place.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Democrat, was pleased with the win but also cautioned against what might happen in the next round of budget talks.

“We were successful in keeping current funding, so we stopped any cuts in the current budget and I want to thank everybody who’s been involved with my website reaching out, emailing, calling. We now still have a challenge that the budget for next year proposes to zero out the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, so we have to keep fighting, but the good news is we won round one,” Stabenow, Michigan’s senior senator, told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday.

U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga of Zeeland and Fred Upton of St. Joseph, both Republicans, also expressed their pleasure the funding was included in the spending bill.

“The health and vitality of the Great Lakes are instrumental to having a productive economy that creates good-paying jobs and sustained economic growth in Michigan. I am glad to see Congress work in a bipartisan manner to fully fund the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and demonstrate that the Great Lakes continue to be a national priority,” a Monday statement from Huizenga read.

Upton released this statement Monday:

“Avoiding a costly government shutdown and funding bipartisan priorities most Americans agree on is great news. I’m particularly pleased to see funding stay level for our Great Lakes and a $2 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health. This NIH funding boost shows a deep commitment to our nation’s best and brightest researchers and doctors. It will pay huge dividends down the line for patients and families. With this agreement we also bolster our nation’s border security, jumpstart the rebuilding of our military – including the largest military pay raise in six years – and provide additional resources for the fight against the ongoing opioid epidemic. This process has not been perfect, but I’m pleased to see a bipartisan agreement move forward.”

If Congress passes the trillion-dollar spending plan to fund government through Sept. 30, the Great Lakes money will remain. Many members are optimistic that votes later this week will solidify the plan.