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Environment & Energy

Coalition Pushes Congress to Save Great Lakes Funding from Trump Budget Cuts

photo of Lake Erie

Healing Our Waters, a coalition of environmental groups involved in protecting the Great Lakes, says President Trump’s 2019 budget and infrastructure plan are both “dead on arrival."

About 100 members of the coalition will travel to Washington, D.C., next month to meet with senators and representatives from the region. They'll present some recommendations for a national infrastructure plan.

“It needs to significantly increase federal investments; it needs to prioritize nature-based solutions that save money by preventing problems before they become more serious,” says Chad Lord, policy director of Healing Our Waters.  “It needs to support, not roll back, environmental health and safety protections.”

The coalition hopes Congress will find a better way to solve problems with pollution and water infrastructure. 

In 1977, the federal government spent 63 percent of its capital spending on water infrastructure, compared to just 9 percent in 2014, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

In a proposal that Trump released on Monday, infrastructure spending gets a boost. 

Privatizing public waters
Healing Our Waters Campaign Director Todd Ambs is happy about that, but says the president’s plan doesn’t solve the nation’s water crisis.

“Incentives in the plan -- to that extent that they exist -- are geared toward privatization of water infrastructure where decisions are based on financial gain rather than public health benefit.”

Healing our Waters rejects Trump’s 2019 budget outline, too.

The plan would slash hundreds of millions of dollars for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the National Sea Grant program. The budget also would eliminate money for a program aimed at reducing pollution from sources like agricultural runoff.

“What this [program] does is provide a pot of funds that are given to state agencies, enforcing the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts to address, specifically, reducing the threat of polluted runoff sources,” Ambs says.  “It’s a pretty critical thing.”

Many elected officials in the Great Lakes region have criticized Trump’s budget, including members of Congress and a group of mayors. 

“With this devastating funding cut, the president has abandoned the Great Lakes region yet again,” said John Dickert, president of the mayors' group know as the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative.  “This short-sighted proposed budget would devastate our region’s freshwater and $5.8 trillion binational Great Lakes economy for generations.”

Trump proposed slashing spending for the Great Lakes last year, but Congress restored the money.  

Great Lakes Today is a collaboration of WBFO Buffalo, ideastream Cleveland, and WXXI Rochester.