Trump sparks furor over
proposed 'gutting' of Great Lakes
The total 'gutting' of funding by the Trump Administration for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiiative (GLRI) in the proposed 2018 federal budget has sparked widespread shock amongst municipal officials in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence regions.
"Our members are appalled, given the success of and bipartisan support for the program," Maritime Magazine was told by David Ullrich, Executive Director of the Chicago-based Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (Cities Initiative), a bi-national coalition of 128 mayors. GLRI has been integral over the last eight years in helping clean up toxic hotspots, better manage polluted storm water runoff, addressing invasive species, and protecting habitats and wildlife.
The elimination of GLRI is part of a larger effort by the Trump Administration to scale back Environmental Protection Agency funding by 31.4 percent, or approximately US$2.4 billion while eliminating more than 3,000 staff jobs. Biggest priority of the America First budget is a dramatic increase in military spending to strengthen safety for all Americans.
"The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities," states the Budget document.
The previous Obama Administration had approved GLRI funding of about US$300 million annually for the next five years.
However, before such funding drops to zero, it remains to be seen how the proposed budget navigates through Congress where many Great Lakes lawmakers support the GLRI, commented Scott McKay, Quebec Program and Policy Manager of the Cities Initiative. "There is a long process before the end result."
"I believe the American Government's budget does not reflect the great importance of these environmental questions related to climate change and water issues, and that we all have, at every level of government, a responsibility in this regard," said Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre, Chairman of the Cites Initiative. "We shall continue to express our strong solidarity and will speak with one united unwavering voice against these unacceptable budget cuts."
"The Great Lakes are a national treasure similar to the Grand Canyon and it is not solely the responsibility of state and local governments to invest in their protection," added Mayor Paul Dyster of Niagara Falls, New York, Vice Chair of the Cities Initiative. "Local governments already invest over $15 billion per year and rely on investment from the federal government for Great Lakes restoration and protection efforts."
Mayor Sandra Cooper of the Town of Collingwood, Ontario, said, "All levels of government on both sides of the border have a moral responsibility to protect the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River for future generations. A complete elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative will put a halt to successful restoration efforts and the Lakes at a risk of degradation."
The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative is a coalition of 128 cities from the United States and Canada representing over 17 million people who work together for the long term protection and restoration of the resource. The mayors work closely with state, provincial, federal, tribal, First Nation, and non-government representatives from across the basin to protect, restore, and sustain one of the largest freshwater resources in the world.