By: Soondos Mulla-Ossman ~Staff Writer~
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program launched in 2010 to clean pollution and algae from the world’s largest freshwater system, is under threat after President Donald Trump released his national budget. Among the controversies, withdrawing all funding from the Great Lakes is one of the most devastating to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The lakes currently receive $300 million in annual federal appropriations through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
The preliminary budget would also nix grants that provide for low or moderate-income homes in the area. The Community Development Block Grants which help create housing, the Low Income Home Energy Program which helped Americans pay heating bills (where in 2016 alone, Ohio received $130 million), and the independent Appalachian Regional Commission,which has spent nearly $10 million on economic development programs in Ohio’s 32 Appalachian counties since October 2015 would be eliminated.
Should the proposed budget be approved without any changes, residents from the coastlines to Cincinnati are prone to feelings its effects. The initiatives and programs have removed toxins, fought invasive species and raised the overall water quality of the Great Lakes since 2009.
“The idea that the administration would eliminate a program that protects drinking water for more than 30 million people is hard to comprehend,” Bainbridge Township Republican Rep. Dave Joyce said in a statement.
Trump’s administration, which has already proposed a 31 percent cut to the EPA, said the decision was part of an effort to turn over “responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to state and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities.”
However, the Great Lakes has already proven vital to communities dependent on its water in the past. Ohio Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown commented on the progress the Great Lakes have made since seeing its heavy pollution as a child and fears that they may relapse back into that state.
Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman agreed.
“I have long championed this program, and I’m committed to continuing to do everything I can to protect and preserve Lake Erie, including preserving this critical program and its funding,” Portman said.
More than 3,500 species of plants and animals currently live in the Great Lakes basin. The lakes have more than 10,000 miles of shoreline and serve as a drain of more than 200,000 square miles of land ranging from agricultural, forested areas, cities and suburbs, according to the National Wildlife Federation.