Trump budget cuts Great Lakes Restoration, Sea Grant programs

Mar 20, 2017

 

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget is out – and it eliminates the $300 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which finances environmental projects all over the region.

The budget also zeroes out the $250 million allotted to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grants, including 33 Sea Grant programs nationwide. Based at universities, Sea Grant programs focus on educating the public, outreach and research. 

The budget says the programs are a “lower priority than core functions maintained in the budget such as surveys, charting, and fisheries management.”

The budget plan, released late last week, calls for significant increases in military and border-security spending, along with corresponding cuts in many other agencies. The blueprint was designed to "send a message to our allies and our potential adversaries that this is a strong-power administration," said Mick Mulvaney, Office of Management and Budget Director.

Trump's plan now goes to Congress, which will make changes before enacting federal budget legislation.

The GLRI, created in 2010 with strong bipartisan support, has supported thousands of projects across the Great Lakes region. In December, the initiative’s funding was re-authorized by Congress. 

Numerous politicians from both sides of the aisle have already spoken out against the budget. In a statement, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) said, “Taking an ax to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will cost Ohio jobs and jeopardize public health by putting the well-being of Lake Erie at risk."

Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) said Thursday that he is committed to preserving the program and its funding. 

More than 100 Great Lakes advocates were in Washington last week to lobby Congress on funding for the region. 

Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement that: 

"...real leadership to benefit the people of Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, New York, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Illinois will have to come from Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress, who have worked together over the last seven years to invest in Great Lakes restoration projects that are producing results for the environment and economy in local communities across the region."

The GLRI currently funds projects across the region, including in the Rochester Embayment, which is listed as an area of concern. The future of on-going projects, including those aimed at restoring habitats and educating farmers to reduce phosphorous output, is unclear.

The budget blueprint calls for cutting other regional projects, including the Chesapeake Bay Restoration plan, as a way to return "the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities.”

Trump proposes cutting the EPA budget by 31 percent, from $8.3 billion in fiscal year 2017 to $5.7 billion in fiscal year 2018. That's the largest cut among all Cabinet departments and major agencies.

The budget says that change, which would cut 3,200 EPA jobs, is needed "to ease the burden of unnecessary federal regulations that impose significant costs for workers and consumers without justifiable environmental benefits."

Instead of carrying out many of its current functions, the EPA would "primarily support states and tribes in their important role protecting air, land, and water in the 21st century," the budget document adds.

NPR contributed to this report.