Mich. (AP) — President Barack Obama's 2015 budget requests the least
spending yet on a Great Lakes cleanup program his administration has
championed, but an official said Tuesday the cutback does not signal
eroding support for the cause.
the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative the first year of his presidency,
based on a priority list compiled by government officials, scientists and
advocates who warned the inland seas' food webs and other ecological
systems were in danger of unraveling from long-festering environmental
ills. The lakes hold about one-fifth of the world's surface fresh water
and meet the needs of more than 30 million people.
$475 million for the program in his 2010 budget, Obama has sought roughly
$300 million in each subsequent year — and Congress has gone along,
reflecting strong bipartisan support among lawmakers in the eight-state
region who often agree on little else.
But his spending
blueprint for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 proposes just $275 million,
which U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief Gina McCarthy said is
indicative of a broad push for spending restraint. Her department, which
oversees the Great Lakes program, would absorb an overall $310 million cut
under the president's plan.
administration is very supportive of the Great Lakes Restoration
Initiative," McCarthy said in a phone conference, adding that the proposed
cut "represents no lack of commitment ... and it represents a significant
The Healing Our
Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, which represents 120 organizations in the
eight-state region, said it was disappointed.
"A lot of work
remains to restore the Great Lakes to health," said Todd Ambs, the
coalition's director. "Cutting funding now will only cost us more later,
because projects will get harder and more expensive the longer we wait."
targets invasive species, toxic hot spots such as polluted harbors and
river mouths, agricultural and urban runoff blamed for widespread algae
blooms and loss of wetlands and other wildlife habitat. It supports the
effort to prevent Asian carp, which have invaded the Mississippi River and
its tributaries, from reaching the lakes.
More than 2,000
grants have been awarded under the program to nonprofit groups, local,
state and tribal governments and researchers.
The budget was
released as advocates from the region made their annual visit to
Washington, D.C., to lobby for programs that benefit the lakes. They will
ask Congress to keep the restoration program at its current level, Ambs
said. A spokeswoman for Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said he
would push for $300 million.
also objected to a proposed cut in a federal fund that helps communities
upgrade wastewater treatment systems — a top priority in the Great Lakes
region, where antiquated sewers often overflow during heavy rainstorms.
The Great Lakes states — Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio,
Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin — will lose a combined $150 million
if the cutback is approved, Ambs said.