Great Lakes News

Great Lakes News

President Obama to Cut $50 Million From Great Lakes Cleanup


President Obama unveiled his 2016 $4 trillion budget proposal last Monday, and it was missing something: $50 million from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

If Obama's proposal is approved, funding for the initiative to restore and protect the Great Lakes would drop from the current $300 million to $250 million in Fiscal Year 2016, the Associated Press reports. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative pays for toxic-pollution cleanup, restoration of fish and wildlife habitats, protection against invasive species, and reduction of harm from runoff that can cause algal blooms.

Last summer, algal blooms in the Toledo, Ohio area led to drinking-water prohibitions — one reason Ohio Sen. U.S. Sherrod Brown (D) says the cleanup program should remain uncut and intact.

Obama proposed the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative back in 2009. Over the last six years, nearly $1.9 billion has been spent on approximately 2,000 projects region-wide. Obama’s administration now says it can still accomplish the cleanup with a smaller budget by focusing on key areas.

"With this investment, the EPA expects to continue to make progress advancing restoration," EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia told the Associated Press. "The modest reduction to interagency agreements, grants, and contracts will place a greater focus on ... cleanup of areas of concern, preventing and controlling the spread of invasive species, and taking steps to address the causes of harmful algal blooms in priority watersheds."

Last month, U.S. Rep. David Joyce called for extending the cleanup fund for another five years and spending $300 million a year. The Ohio Republican sponsored a similar bill that passed the House last year with bipartisan support, but it stalled in the Senate. The President sought a smaller reduction last year, but Congress kept the program at $300 million.

Photo by Chuck Hagel

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