WBNG: Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in danger of being cut under President Trump's budget proposal
DULUTH, MN -
An on-going project to clean up and protect the Great Lakes could be in trouble thanks to some major cuts in President Donald Trump's 1.5 trillion dollar budget proposal.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative works not just on Lake Superior clean up and protection, but for all the Great Lakes.
To date, the initiative has identified at least 43 sites that need restoration, with 12 of those efforts already underway or fully cleaned up.
Thirty-one Sites remain, but cleanup and restoration of those areas could be in danger under President Trump's budget proposal.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative started in 2010 under president Obama.
For the last 7 years, work has been underway in an effort to restore and keep the Great Lakes clean.
The initiative has received 300 million dollars each year, being distributed to over 40 sites on the five Great Lakes.
But now that funding could be in danger under President Trump's budget proposal.
"When you add up the sum of the federal dollars that we stand to lose, it's a little over 90 million dollars over the next three years that are at risk if that program is zeroed out." Said Nelson French, Great Lakes Lake Superior Supervisor with the MPCA.
The GLRI works to improve water quality, pollution control and decrease invasive species that have upset the ecological balance of the Great Lakes.
Nelson said, "The president's budget kind of throws all of that work out the window."
The funds have also helped to clean up rivers that feed the Great Lakes and under the president's plan future cleanup of the St. Louis River Estuary, which is about 20% completed, could be brought to a halt.
"It would stop the progress that's being made on cleaning up contaminated sediments and restoring habitat in the estuary." Said John Stine, Commissioner for the MPCA.
It's one of many cuts in Trump's proposed budget, to create increased funding for the nation's defense programs, plus beefed up immigration enforcement and funding a U.S., Mexico border wall.
But experts say there is some hope.
They say the president's proposed cuts might have some difficulty making it into the budget as just last year, Congress enacted a 5-year, 300 million dollar a year authorization for the Great Lakes Restoration Fund.
"Although an authorization isn't an appropriation, congress has said [they] want to continue funding this work because of the great good it's doing in restoring the Great Lakes infrastructure." Said Nelson.
Congressman Rick Nolan and Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken have all spoken out in opposition to the president's proposed budget.
The plan must still be finalized by the president's office before it's sent to congress.
If it passes both the House and Senate it will be forwarded to President Trump for his signature.