A key federal program responsible for protecting the Great Lakes is one step closer to being fully funded after it was targeted for massive cuts earlier this year in President Donald Trump’s proposed budget.
The Senate Committee on Appropriations on Monday released its recommended budget for environmental agencies, which included the full $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The program targets the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem, including invasive species like the Asian carp, industrial contamination, toxic sediment and phosphorus runoff that contributes to harmful algal blooms.
In March, Trump proposed a budget that would reduce funding for the program by 97 percent, from $300 million to $10 million. The proposal prompted an outcry from environmental groups and public officials across the region.
Senate Appropriations Committee matches our mark for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative: $300 million. This helps to assure full funding for this important program for the next fiscal year! Thank you @SenatorDurbin & @SenatorBaldwin for delivering for the #GreatLakes! pic.twitter.com/Auq4UlMg8e
— Marcy Kaptur (@RepMarcyKaptur) November 20, 2017
“These cuts would decimate everything we’re doing to try and protect Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes from pollution, from climate change, from invasive species,” said Jack Darin, head of the Illinois Sierra Club, following Trump’s proposal. “When you cut the Great Lakes, you cut jobs, our health, and the future of a tremendous asset for our whole region. And, this has always been a bipartisan priority.”
In July, the House Appropriations Committee included $300 million for the program in its budget bill. The Senate committee’s bill is another step forward for the initiative, but it could still face cuts when the full Senate votes on the budget.
July 21: A plan to fortify a barrier against Asian carp was set to be released in February but has been stalled by the Trump administration.
May 9: Issues impacting the Great Lakes and communities surrounding the massive freshwater system will be at the center of a two-day conference in Chicago starting Wednesday.
March 13: Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes could see a substantial amount of federal funding dry up.