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President Trump's Great Lakes Budget Cuts Draw Criticism, Including From Republicans

photo of Great Lakes

The outline of President Trump’s 2018 budget is out – and it eliminates the $300 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which finances environmental projects all over the region.

Trump’s budget calls for a 31 percent decrease in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency – the biggest cut of any agency.  In addition to cutting 3,200 employees, the proposal eliminates funding for other projects – including Chesapeake Bay restoration and climate change research.

Gildo Tori is the Director of Public Policy at Ducks Unlimited, an organization that restores wetlands and other habitats. They’ve used Great Lakes Restoration funding in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and other states. Tori says restoration projects provide jobs to the Great Lakes region.

“This is about the economy and jobs, and I think this is a message we need to get out more and more to the administration and to Congress,” said Tori.

Tori and other Great Lakes advocates have been in Washington this week, lobbying Congress to continue funding the initiative.

The budget blueprint leaves the responsibilities of the initiative to state agencies and local communities.  The Ohio EPA has said it would be nearly impossible to fund the program.

Rich Cochran, president of Western Reserve Land Conservancy, says the Great Lakes should be a federal priority. 

“This is not some pork-barrel project that’s benefitting one little area of one little state. This is a region with eight states, provides drinking water to 30 million people at least, two countries. It is by its very nature, by definition a federal issue.”

The conservancy has received more than $2 million for projects in Northeast Ohio. 

Another beneficiary of GLRI funds is emerald shiner research in Buffalo, N.Y. Scientists fear the cuts could limit the project’s future.

“That means we’re looking at pretty skinny years in terms of researching the river,” said Alicia Perez Fuentetaja, researcher at Buffalo State College’s Great Lakes Center.

Trump’s plan now goes to Congress. Both Republican and Democratic member of Ohio's congressional delegation have criticized the cuts.

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream, and WXXI Rochester.