Trump budget would cut Great Lakes Restoration Initiative

Program has bipartisan support from Great Lakes states lawmakers

Sturgeon Bay
Venus can be seen as the sun sets over Lake Michigan at Sturgeon Bay in northern Michigan. (Courtesy Thurston De Vos, file)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD/AP) — The $4.1 trillion budget that President Donald Trump has proposed does not include any money for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“It’s an all-out assault on protecting our water, so we need everybody engaged,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the Michigan Democrat who helped launch the program, told 24 Hour News 8 on Tuesday.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funds programs to help clean up pollution, fight invasive species and preserve wetlands. Cutting it would save about $300 million next year.

“It sure has a lot of impact,” Stabenow said of the initiative. “We have 20 percent of the world’s fresh water surrounding us. We know what it means in terms of our quality of life, boating, fishing, hunting, swimming. I can go right around Michigan and point out beaches that have been cleaned up, bacteria eliminated — not counting the challenges with zebra mussels and the fight on Asian carp. There’s so many things that we use these funds for. And if we’re not paying attention, we’re not continuing to monitor the water, we’ll take steps backward.”

The initiative, which has received more than $2 billion in federal funding since it was established in 2010, has nearly unanimous backing from members of both parties across region’s eight states, from New York to Minnesota.

“The health and vitality of the Great Lakes are instrumental to having sustained economic growth in Michigan and across the entire Great Lakes region,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-Zeeland, who co-chairs the House’s Great Lakes Task Force. “I remain committed to working with both Republicans and Democrats to prioritize, strengthen, and defend the Great Lakes.”

Stabenow said she thinks Congress will be able to save some of the funding, but that she’s worried it won’t be enough. She said it is time for “all hands on deck” and encouraged people to sign an online petition opposing the cuts.

U.S. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, said in a Tuesday statement he was concerned about cutting funding for the Great Lakes. But he also reminded his constituents that the budget proposed by Trump is far from final.

The money for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative was spared in an interim spending bill passed early this month to fund the federal government through September.