The Morning Journal: Great Lakes remain a political battleground


The Morning Journal: Great Lakes remain a political battleground

The Environmental Protection Agency says the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is the largest investment in the Great Lakes in two decades.

Despite Congress approving a five-year extension of the program last year that would extend funding through 2021, the GLRI sits in the middle of a political battle between the White House and lawmakers in Great Lakes states.

In March, President Donald Trump revealed his Fiscal Year 2018 budget plans. Those plans outlined deep cuts to the EPA, including zeroing the federal funding to the GLRI.

Ohio’s U.S. Senators and Representatives along Lake Erie were quick to criticize the proposal.

Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said “taking an ax to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will cost Ohio jobs and jeopardize public health by putting the well-being of Lake Erie at risk.”

“As a kid, I remember seeing how polluted Lake Erie was, and we can’t put an end to our cleanup efforts when we’ve made such progress. My colleagues in the Ohio delegation and I will not stand for a budget that zeroes out this critical program.”

Brown’s Republican counterpart in the Senate Rob Portman called the Great Lakes an invaluable resource, adding the GLRI has been “a successful public-private partnership that helps protect both our environment and our economy.”

Portman cited a recent study that found the GRLI’s work generates a total of more than $80 billion in benefits in health, tourism, fishing and recreation.

That study also states that GRLI saves local communities like Toledo $50 million in costs, and increases property values across the region by a total of $12 billion, Portman said.

Rep. Dave Joyce, R-Russell Township, said the elimination of a program that “protects drinking water for more than 30 million people is hard to comprehend.”

“However, like we have done in the past, we will work with all the members from the Great Lakes region and beyond to restore funding for this vital program.”

The program has received about $300 million in funding annually, but fighting for the full-funding for the GLRI is nothing new. Great Lakes lawmakers had to push for that under the Obama administration too, though the total federal funding for program was never in jeopardy then.

For Fiscal Year 2016, Obama suggested cutting the funding by $50 million, but lawmakers successfully fought to give the program its full allotment.

“More than a century of environmental damage has taken a significant toll on the Great Lakes,” a group of Representatives—including Joyce—wrote in 2015 arguing against the Obama’s administration’s proposed cuts. “Since the GLRI was launched in 2010, it has made significant progress in addressing the longstanding environmental challenges confronting the Great Lakes.“

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