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Great Lakes once again in budget crosshairs

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The Trump administration budget released this week calls once again for slashing the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by 90 percent, from $300 million to $30 million.

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The Great Lakes are in need of con­gres­sio­nal cham­pi­ons. Again.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion bud­get re­leased this week calls once again for slash­ing the Great Lakes Res­tora­tion Ini­tia­tive by 90 per­cent, from $300 mil­lion to $30 mil­lion.

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The ini­tia­tive pays for proj­ects that mit­i­gate ag­ri­cul­tural run­off, mon­i­tor wa­ter qual­ity, re­store wet­lands and other wild­life hab­i­tats, among other work.

The cuts are part of broader re­duc­tions in en­vi­ron­men­tal spend­ing pro­posed by the ad­min­is­tra­tion. As it stands, the pro­posal would re­duce over­all spend­ing for the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency by about 34 per­cent from 2017 lev­els.

Last year the ad­min­is­tra­tion pro­posed a sim­i­lar bud­get for the lake-sav­ing pro­gram that would have re­duced the proj­ect from $300 mil­lion to $10 mil­lion. A full-scale res­cue ef­fort from a bi­par­ti­san group of Great Lakes-states sen­a­tors and con­gress­men — Sher­rod Brown (D., Ohio), Rob Port­man (R., Ohio), and Marcy Kap­tur (D., Toledo) among them — re­stored fund­ing be­fore Con­gress ap­proved the fi­nal spend­ing bill.

Now their ef­forts are needed again.

At the top of the list of en­vi­ron­men­tal threats the Great Lakes are toxic al­gae and in­va­sive Asian carp. The pol­lu­tion-fed al­gae threat­ens the drink­ing wa­ter sup­ply of at least half a mil­lion peo­ple in the Toledo re­gion and many more else­where. Asian carp could dec­i­mate na­tive fish spe­cies in Lake Erie and other Great Lakes, throw­ing the eco­sys­tem out of bal­ance.

The Great Lakes Res­tora­tion Ini­tia­tive is fo­cused on both these is­sues and pro­vides the fed­eral re­sources badly needed to ad­dress these dan­gers.

It is es­sen­tial for pre­serv­ing the re­gion’s wa­ter sup­ply, econ­omy, and qual­ity of life.

The re­gion’s bi­par­ti­san con­tin­gent of sen­a­tors and con­gress­men have shown that they un­der­stand the dan­ger and they can col­lab­o­rate to pro­tect a vi­tal pro­gram. Now they will need to prove that once more.

This is not just a Toledo is­sue or a north­west Ohio is­sue. We are talk­ing about the Great Lakes here — a na­tional re­source. Our Great Lake, Lake Erie, is sick. It is not ex­pend­able. Sav­ing it is not de­bat­able. It can­not be saved for free.

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