ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) — President Barack Obama’s proposed budget for 2016 seeks what it calls a $50 million “modest reduction” in a multi-year program to clean up the Great Lakes.
The president’s spending plan released Monday requests $250 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, down from $300 million appropriated for this year.
The program focuses on the lakes’ most serious long-term ecological challenges such as invasive species, toxic pollution, degraded fish and wildlife habitat and runoff from farms and cities that causes toxic algae blooms. Obama created the program after taking office in 2009. About $1.9 billion has been spent on about 2,000 projects region-wide.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she was “extremely disappointed” at the proposed budget cut and said she favored an increase to $475 million in the coming fiscal year for the initiative.
“With so many water quality challenges, we need to continue to invest in the health of our Great Lakes and waterways for years to come,” Stabenow said in a statement.
Todd Ambs, campaign director of the Ann Arbor-based Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, said in a statement that the proposed cut is unacceptable. The president sought a $25 million reduction last year, but Congress kept the program at $300 million.
“This budget, for the Great Lakes, is a non-starter,” Ambs said. “We look forward to — once again — working with Republicans and Democrats in Congress to restore funding to Great Lakes protection efforts that are producing results for the environment and economy in communities across the region. Bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate have proven that they will stand up for the Great Lakes — and we embrace the opportunity to work with them again to keep federal Great Lakes restoration efforts on track.”
The lakes provide drinking water to about 30 million people and are an economic pillar for eight states and two Canadian provinces.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency spokeswoman Liz Purchia said Monday that her agency “has made significant investments” in the Great Lakes cleanup effort over six years and would continue to do so under the proposed $250 million budget.
“With this investment, the EPA expects to continue to make progress advancing restoration,” she said in an email to The Associated Press. “The modest reduction to interagency agreements, grants, and contracts will place a greater focus on … clean up of areas of concern, preventing and controlling the spread of invasive species, and taking steps to address the causes of harmful algal blooms in priority watersheds.”
Acting Deputy Administrator Stan Meiburg said in a statement Monday that his agency’s budget “sends a strong signal that the president is fully committed to making the investments needed to meet our mission to protect public health and the environment.”