Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI): Will The Federal Budget “Make the Great Lakes Great, Again”

Freighter on the Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are national treasures.

Not just for the millions of tourists that visit the scenic shores each year, but for the diverse ecosystem that lives beneath the surface and yes, the millions of people that depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water.

The Great Lakes contain 20% of the Earth's fresh surface water which makes them vital to the people, communities, wildlife, and economy of the eight-state Great Lakes region.

The Great Lakes are under attack by the Trump Administration. Over the last two budget years its proposals cut funding for the programs that are crucial to protecting them. The Great Lakes are already facing serious threats from pollution. We can’t afford to let these severe proposed budget cuts become reality.

According to the GLRI website, the program accelerates efforts to protect and restore the largest system of fresh surface water in the world – the Great Lakes. GLRI answered a challenge of the governors of the Great Lakes states to address long standing environmental problems in the lakes. Since 2010 the multi-agency GLRI has provided funding to 16 federal organizations to strategically target the biggest threats to the Great Lakes ecosystem and to accelerate progress toward achieving long term goals:

  • Fish safe to eat
  • Water safe for recreation
  • Safe source of drinking water
  • All Areas of Concern delisted
  • Harmful/nuisance algal blooms eliminated
  • No new self-sustaining invasive species
  • Existing invasive species controlled
  • Native habitat protected and restored to sustain native species

In 2017, President Trump made an attempt to eliminate the GLRI. This year he has proposed cutting it by 90% from $300M down to $30M. The GLRI has provided more than $2 billion in funding since 2010 for projects to clean up toxic sediment, stop the spread of invasive species, prevent farm-field and city street runoff in the lakes and reduce sewer overflows. If that doesn’t sound scary to you, it should. Without funding from the GLRI, none of these successes would have been possible.

But it doesn’t end there; these cuts to the GLRI are a part of a larger plan to slash the EPA’s budget by nearly 25%. This enormous budget cut would reduce the number of scientists and researchers at the EPA by 3,000. Without proper funding and staffing, it is nearly impossible for the EPA to carry out its mission to protect our health.

Here’s how it affects you: reductions to these programs could lead to increased water pollution, beach closings, and more polluted drinking water.When faced with the threat of GLRI funding cuts last year, Minnesotans and other people from the region spoke up and said no. Congress listened and rejected this dangerous proposal.

The new Congress, elected in November, will most likely not cut the GLRI when they begin budget negotiations in 2019.  We have commitments from Representatives and Senators from both parties around the region to fully fund the GLRI at $300M.  Now, our work will center around shoring up that support in Congress and pressuring President Trump  to live up to his promise to “Make the Great Lakes great again.”

The Great Lakes should be protected now, and for future generations to come. It's up to us to stop President Trumps shortsighted plans and make our voices count.If you have any questions or want to get more involved in protecting our Great Lakes and making sure that all the programs that protect the lakes are fully funded, please don’t hesitate to contact our Water Program Coordinator, Steve Schultz, sschultz[at]cleanwater[dot]org.

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