Sea Grant, Great Lakes Cleanup Program May Face Budget Cuts

Environmentalists Plan To Lobby Against Cuts Next Week In Washington

Lake Michigan
cmh2315fl (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Great Lakes environmental groups will head to Washington next week to ask members of Congress to fight against rumored major cuts in some Great Lakes protection programs.

A draft proposal from the Trump administration proposes slashing spending on the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million per year to $10 million.

Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition said that’s not the message President Donald Trump offered last year.

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“As a candidate last fall, the president sent a representative to our annual Great Lakes Restoration conference who pledged to support federal Great Lakes restoration investment. These budget numbers, if accurate, are a far cry from that commitment,” Ambs said, during a Thursday conference call with the media.

Trump may also try to cut other Environmental Protection Agency programs that help the Great Lakes, Ambs said. Conservative groups, like the Illinois-based Heartland Institute, worry Trump won’t do enough cutting at EPA, calling the agency “rogue.”

Ambs also worries Sea Grant programs like the one at the University of Wisconsin could be in for major cuts. Sea Grant provides research and education about water resources, including the Great Lakes. But a Trump budget memo talks about eliminating federal Sea Grant funding as part of major cuts for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Ambs said dumping Sea Grant would be devastating.

“Wisconsin Sea Grant is looked to for leadership on everything from the impacts of climate change to a range of important scientific research around everything from polluted run-off to lake levels,” he said.

The Trump administration’s final budget proposal may be released next week.

The southeastern Wisconsin district of House Speaker Paul Ryan touches Lake Michigan and includes the cities of Kenosha, Racine and Oak Creek. But a Ryan spokesperson described request for comment about Great Lakes budget cuts as a “totally hypothetical inquiry” for policy not yet proposed.

Ryan’s office referred WPR to the House Appropriations Committee, which did not respond to a request for comment.