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Don't risk the health of the Great Lakes

• Mar 24, 2017 at 6:00 PM

The following editorial was published in the Petoskey News-Review on March 16:

Thursday it was revealed the Trump administration's budget would slash Great Lakes Restoration Initiative funding completely, putting at risk the health of the Great Lakes. Previous information stated the fund would be cut from $300 million to $10 million, but apparently those reports were wrong. The new budget cuts all of the funding.

A clean and healthy Great Lakes are essential not only to the health of millions of people who live around these massive bodies of fresh water, but also the lifeblood to the economies of the entire region. This fund not only helps clean up the Great Lakes throughout the region, but also has major impacts within Northern Michigan.

Jennifer McKay, policy director for the Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, said locally the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has funded a stormwater wetland area at North Central Michigan College, area rain gardens, road-stream crossings to allow rivers to flow naturally and boat washing stations that prevent invasive species spread are all local examples of projects funded by the program.

And she said currently the council has a grant under the initiative to do research and to combat the spread of zebra and quagga mussels.

"(The initiative) has been an unbelievably successful program," McKay said. "It has been used to support over 3,000 restoration projects across the Great Lakes to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitat, clean up environmentally impaired areas of concern which are essentially the worst-of-the-worst sites."

According to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative's map of projects in Michigan, Northern Michigan has seen projects that restore wetlands and habitats, promote nearshore health and projects that combat invasive species, as well as one that focused on cleaning up toxics in the Straits area.

And while the funding has significantly helped areas of Northern Michigan, McKay said there are still challenges in the Great Lakes.

"Despite the success we've had, there's obviously still threats that the Great Lakes are facing and there is a significant amount of work that we still have to do," McKay said. "The Great Lakes are still facing contamination, and invasive species and polluted runoff."

These cuts in Trump's budget proposal will cause irreversible harm to these successful programs that protect and clean the Great Lakes and impact our local communities.

We were pleased to hear that Congressman Jack Bergman seems to understand the damage such a cut would have on our area and has signed a bipartisan letter to the president calling for the $300 million in funding to remain in place.

In a statement to the Petoskey News-Review earlier this week — when it was believed the initiative's budget would be cut $300 million to $10 million — he said, "As a Michigander and a member of the Great Lakes Task Force, I believe it's our duty to be good stewards of our land, water and wildlife. The Great Lakes are one of Michigan's most beautiful natural resources and a significant driver of our economy. They're well worth our investment. That's why I signed a bipartisan letter to the president last month calling for $300 million in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. I want to protect our Great Lakes. Needless to say, the early reports about cuts in funding are concerning, and I look forward to working with the administration to make sure the GRLI is properly funded."

But now the cut is even greater than we or Bergman feared. We urge Bergman to continue this fight for the Great Lakes now and in the future.

The Trump administration has put the health of the Great Lakes and the economies of the Great Lakes states in jeopardy with this budget. It is time for our elected officials to stand up and fight against it.

— PETOSKEY NEWS-REVIEW (AP)

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