Concerns voiced about Great Lakes funding cuts

Alex Doty • Apr 6, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Charter fishing trips from the port of Grand Haven and other commercial fisheries across the Great Lakes region combine to create a $7 billion industry.

Denny Grinold, a 35-year veteran of the charter fishing industry who operates Fish N’ Grin Charter Service out of Grand Haven, is concerned that President Donald Trump’s proposed elimination of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative’s $300 million annual funding could pose problems down the road.

“Now is not the time to pursue this effort, wasting what has been achieved so far,” Grinold of the proposed cut to the GLRI’s funding.

Grinold was joined in a phone conference on Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Mich.; Brad Jensen, executive director of Huron Pines, a non-profit agency that helps combat invasive species with GLRI funding; and Dennis Eade, executive director of the Michigan Steelhead & Salmon Fishermen’s Association. Each of them discussed the potential effects of no GLRI funding.

The president’s proposed budget includes the elimination of the GLRI in Fiscal Year 2018, and the president last week proposed cuts to the GLRI program this year to help pay for the wall on the U.S./Mexico border.

Lawmakers and those who work on and for the Great Lakes say the federal protections have helped prevent invasive species like Asian carp, reduced runoff and harmful algal blooms, restored habitats to protect wildlife and funded pollution cleanup — all efforts that lawmakers say have protected thousands of Michigan jobs.

“The health of our charter boat fishing industry reflects the health of the Great Lakes,” Grinold said.

Grinold said that, without GLRI funding, many charter boat captains could face the possibility of dwindling trips and bad fishing conditions — situations that could put some out of business. He pointed to the recent drop in the Chinook salmon population in Lake Michigan as an example of how changes in the fisheries’ ecosystem could impact business.

“We feel the effect of the downturn in Lake Michigan with a slower demand for charter bookings in recent years,” he said.

According to Grinold, of the 1,900 charter boats across the country, 600 operate within Michigan. Each trip brings 3-5 additional people who come along for the ride — people who spend money at restaurants, hotels and other merchants at a lakeshore community such as Grand Haven, he said.

“That group of people can bring in $800 to $1,000 to each one of those communities,” Grinold said.

Kildee said that he is disappointed in the president’s proposal to eliminate the GLRI in the 2018 budget.

“These kinds of cuts suggested by the president are short-sighted and they’re dangerous,” the congressman said. “Thankfully, Congress ultimately has the power of the purse.”

Kildee pledged to work together with his fellow Democrat and Republican representatives to oppose the cuts.

“This has never been a partisan issue, (and) it shouldn’t be a partisan issue now,” he said.

Read: “Republicans join Democrats against Trump's Great Lakes cuts”

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