Trump administration missed boat on lakes funding reductions

News of a budget proposal that broke nationally late last week detailing that the White House wants to all but eliminate Environmental Protection Agency funding that pays for, among other things, environmental cleanup and other programs for the Great Lakes, has drawn fire from a great many people.

At issue is Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding. An early Trump Administration budget proposal reduces funding from $300 million to $10 million. Overall, the administration wants to slash the EPA’s total budget by about 25 percent.

“This initiative has been critical to cleaning up our Great Lakes and waterways, restoring fish and wildlife habitats, and fighting invasive species, like Asian carp,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow said in remarks included in Associated Press and other coverage. “I call on President Trump to reverse course on these harmful decisions.”

Since its inception, GLRI has provided much of the fiscal support for a wide variety of Great Lakes programs, including but not limited to battles against invasive species, clean up of toxic and polluted sites, wetland restoration, water quality testing and monitoring. The agencies that have headed up these projects over the years are among the federal government’s most prominent, when dealing with the environment, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Geological Survey, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“When you see these reductions, you’ll be able to tie it back to a speech the President gave, or something the President had said previously,” Mick Mulvaney, administration budget director, said at a White House press briefing early last week. “We are taking his words and turning them into policies and dollars.”

Comprising about 21 percent of the world’s fresh water supply supporting billions of dollars in U.S. commerce, we’d argue the value of the Great Lakes and its ecosystem are beyond measure. That’s why this proposal is so difficult to understand.

Certainly the final EPA budget will likely be much different from the early proposals that are being circulated. And this is an early proposal. That said, it reveals in a very troubling way the internal thinking at the Trump White House.

This kind of cut will harm the environment and economy and make few friends for an administration that is already garnering historically low approval ratings.