ANN ARBOR, MICH. (March 14, 2019) – Great Lakes advocates are turning to the U.S. Congress to restore funding to core clean water programs, following the release of President Trump’s budget, which recommended steep cuts in programs that protect drinking water. The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and its member groups are looking to work with Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate to keep Great Lakes restoration on track.
“We are disappointed by these cuts, but the president does not have the final word in the federal budget,” said Chad Lord, policy director, Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition. “We look forward to working with bipartisan leaders in Congress to restore funding for these key programs that protect our drinking water, jobs, and way of life.”
President Trump’s proposed budget contains steep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency budget as well as to restoration funding. The proposed budget includes:
- $30 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative ($270 million less than FY19 funding). The program provides funding to fight invasive species, clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, and reduce polluted runoff.
- $1.12 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund ($574 million less than FY19 funding). The SRF programs provide low-interest loans to communities to invest in sewage and drinking water infrastructure projects.
- $863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund ($300 million less than FY19 funding)
- $153.7 million for Clean Water State and Tribal Grants, Sec. 106 ($77.1 million less than FY19 funding). State grants provide resources to states and tribes to address water pollution challenges at the state level.
- No funding for Non-point Pollution State and Tribal Grants, Sec. 319 ($170.9 million less than FY19 funding)
- No funding for Sea Grant Research ($68 million less than FY19 funding). These programs work with universities to provide monitoring and research on the Great Lakes.
- $6.068 billion for the Environmental Protection Agency ($2.76 billion less than FY19 funding). The EPA is the lead agency in carrying out Great Lakes restoration activities.
The administration provides a budget blueprint each spring to provide a starting point for budget debates in Congress. For the third year in a row, President Trump has proposed cutting funds to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and the Environmental Protection Agency. Congressional appropriators are in charge of setting the final budget each year, and for the last two budget cycles a bipartisan group of Representatives and Senators has restored funding.
“Congressional leaders know that restoration investments are producing results for the environment and the economy,” said Gildo Tori, acting chief of policy, Ducks Unlimited. “We will continue to work with Congress to fund these vital programs, because we know cutting funding will only make projects more difficult and more expensive the longer we wait.”
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and its members are emphasizing the need for more federal investment in water infrastructure. More than $179 billion is needed to fix and modernize drinking water and waste water infrastructure over the next 20 years to meet clean water goals in the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York.
“At a time when aging infrastructure and advocacy for clean, safe drinking water are bringing together rural and urban communities across Wisconsin, we should be thinking of ways to do more to assist vulnerable communities to have safe and clean drinking water rather than taking away opportunities to produce meaningful solutions,” said Brenda Coley, co-executive director, Milwaukee Water Commons.
Great Lakes advocates are also looking for federal leaders to tackle one of the most vexing problems in the region—harmful algal blooms that contaminate drinking water and hurt outdoor recreation.
“Polluted runoff has to be a top priority,” said Kristy Meyer, vice president of policy, natural resource, Ohio Environmental Council. “The states are on the front lines, but cannot handle this serious threat alone. It’s vital that the federal government not pull the plug on investments that support state-based solutions that reduce fertilizer and manure runoff that contaminates streams, rivers, and eventually Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes.”
The Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition will be working with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to restore funding. The Coalition is asking for:
- $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (same as FY19 funding)
- $5.1 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund ($3.4 billion increase over FY19 funding)
- $3.5 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund ($2.3 billion increase over FY19 funding)
- $231 million for Clean Water State and Tribal Grants, Sec. 106 (same funding as FY19)
- $171 million for Non-point Pollution State and Tribal Grants, Sec. 319 (same funding as FY19)
- $93.5 million for Sea Grant Research ($25.5 million increase over FY19 funding)