Commission speaks out about possible 97 percent cut to Great Lakes funding

Commission speaks out about possible 97 percent cut to Great Lakes funding

TOLEDO, OH (WTOL) - President Trump signed a new travel ban today, that affects refugees coming from six specific countries. But a decision he hasn't made yet is also causing concern.

A leaked report says the President will order a 97 percent cut in EPA funds that help the Great Lakes.

That means concern is spreading over the future of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

A budget of $300 million dollars was approved late last year for the GLRI to control nutrients from getting into the Maumee River, to keep asian carp out of Lake Erie, and to pay for research at the University of Toledo.

But talk of a 97 percent cut from the Trump administration has gotten the attention of the Great Lakes Commission in Ann Arbor.

"I've said that this isn't just about campfires on the beach. This is about places like Toledo and Monroe and Port Huron," said Tim Eder, the Executive Director of the Great Lakes Commission. "It would be simply devastating to the Great Lakes and to the efforts that we've put into protecting, cleaning up, restoring."

Eder said any cuts would be painful, especially after lessons learned from the water crises in Toledo and in Flint.

He also predicted the fishing industry and jobs could also be harmed by massive funding cuts.

But if the leak is accurate, it's still only the preliminary budget for the EPA. Plus, Eder said, the President doesn't have the final say.

"I'm pretty confident that some of this funding will be restored because it's Congress that sets the budget. We have such bipartisan support. Both chambers, both sides of the aisle."

Emily Benavides, a spokesperson for Republican Senator Rob Portman, said, "This initiative has been a successful tool in our efforts to help protect and restore Lake Erie, and Rob will continue to fight for it just as he did when the Obama administration proposed cuts to the program."

Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said in a statement:

Any cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative pose a direct threat to Lake Erie and our drinking water, and these reported cuts would effectively eliminate this important program and the progress we've made in improving the health of the Lakes. If these reports are true, I will fight like hell in the Senate appropriations process by working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to restore this funding in full.

The Great Lakes Commission will be sending about 120 people to Washington next week to speak out against the cuts and to meet with elected officials.

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