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Great Lakes mayors warn against cuts to ecological recovery initiative

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A group representing Great Lakes region mayors in the U.S. and Canada is sounding the alarm against potentially drastic cuts to an ecological recovery initiative for the Great Lakes.

The Trump administration's potential cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative were reported by the Detroit Free Press last week. They would slash annual funding for the $300-million program to $10-million.

The initiative combats invasive species, curbs nutrient-fueled algae blooms, cleans up toxic messes and restores sensitive fish and wildlife habitat.

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"Cuts of this magnitude would be devastating to the efforts of our two countries over the past five decades to restore the resource," David Ullrich, executive director of The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel for a story published Sunday. His group represents mayors from more than 125 U.S. and Canadian cities in the Great Lakes basin.

Ullrich said the cuts would also undermine all of the lake restoration and protection efforts underway by local governments, which are collectively far more significant than the federal restoration initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2010.

"Local governments have been investing at over $15-billion per year ... well beyond the federal governments' investments," Ullrich said, "and this would be a major step back from the responsibility shared for this resource."

Conservation groups have also criticized the potential cuts.

"Great Lakes protection is not a partisan issue. No matter how different our backgrounds, Great Lakers value clean water," the Alliance for the Great Lakes said in a statement Friday. "For decades, people of all political affiliations from all corners of the region, have consistently shown strong support for protecting the Great Lakes. And, some of the most critical programs and regulations targeted by President Trump's proposed cuts have been supported by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle."

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