Donald Trump Wants to Cut Great Lakes Federal Funding By 97 Percent

Early reports of President Donald Trump's U.S. EPA budgetary plan show that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative annual funding could be slashed from $300 million to around $10 million. That's a 97-percent decrease in federal funding for resources for the world's largest group of freshwater lakes.

Rob Davis at The Oregonian has been reporting on the president's apparent plan to cut some 3,000 employees from the U.S. EPA — and $2 billion from its budget. The cuts would also dramatically impact the Puget Sound, the Chesapeake Bay, diesel emissions standards, beach water quality testing and a spectrum of environmental education programs for children (that last category being slashed from $8.7 million annually to $555,000).

Great Lakes scientists are already bracing for the absolute havoc that would come with a federal EPA budget positioned like so. Just last month, at an international Great Lakes gathering, Jeff Reutter, special adviser for the Ohio Sea Grant program, said, "If we lose the EPA, we lose Lake Erie."

The health of Lake Erie is, obviously, of critical importance to the city of Cleveland and all of northern Ohio. Last year, U.S. EPA senior adviser Cameron Davis outlined the specific impact of Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding on our little corner of the region.

For instance, "The Western Reserve Land Conservancy was awarded $500,000 to purchase 290 acres of easements in the Chagrin River watershed, and will add another $1.2 million in donated easement value and staff time to establish a 1,350-acre corridor of protected lands in the Lake Erie basin. The easement includes stream bank stabilization and protection, which will eliminate about 38,000 pounds of sediment deposition to Lake Erie annually." (Emphasis ours.)

And: "Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development was awarded $500,000 to work with farmers to reduce the discharge of nutrients and sediments to Lake Erie by increasing their participation in pay-for-performance conservation. This project is expected to reduce 3,700 pounds of total phosphorus; 1,850 pounds of dissolved phosphorus; 4,400,000 pounds of sediment; and 100,000 pounds of nitrogen to Lake Erie annually, helping alleviate the complex harmful algal bloom problem."

Remember that the algal bloom problem directly led to the city of Toledo shutting down its water supply — affecting some half a million residents — for three days in 2014. By cutting the federal support system for programs that combat phosphorus runoff in Ohio and elsewhere, the presidential administration is teeing up a repeat of Toledo's experiences in any number of municipalities around the region. There's no other way to argue the merits of Trump's EPA budget proposal.

Read up the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative here, before the U.S. EPA website is deleted entirely. In short, the Initiative has intended "to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward long term goals."

In championing that progress, Davis offered what now reads like a long-lost proclamation from another era in our country's history: "With support from a strong alliance of bipartisan senators, representatives, states, tribes, municipalities, conservation organizations and businesses, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will keep making strong investments to resuscitate the Lakes."

Trump's EPA plan isn't approved yet; EPA administrator Scott Pruitt has said that he will likely offer his own changes to the budget.

About The Author

Eric Sandy

Eric Sandy is an award-winning Cleveland-based journalist. For a while, he was the managing editor of Scene. He now contributes jam band features every now and then.
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