Trump seeks cuts for cleanup of Great Lakes, other waterways

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — President Donald Trump is making another attempt to slash federal funding that goes toward cleaning up major U.S. waterways including the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay, even though Congress has thwarted his previous attempts, according to budget documents released Monday.

Trump's 2020 spending blueprint for the Environmental Protection Agency proposes cutting most or all federal support for the programs, which benefit waters degraded by years of pollution, overdevelopment and exotic species invasions. His administration has argued repeatedly that state and local governments should foot the bill for nursing the waters back to health.

The biggest recipient is the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which was launched under former President Barack Obama in 2010 to deal with longstanding environmental problems in the lakes, which hold nearly one-fifth of the world's fresh surface water. It has distributed about $2.4 billion in support of more than 4,700 projects, including the removal of sediments laced with industrial toxins in harbors and tributary rivers.

Additionally, it has backed efforts to prevent runoff that feeds toxic algae blooms, prevent invasive species such as Asian carp from reaching the lakes, and restore wetlands and other wildlife habitat.

Trump's budget offers $30 million for the initiative — a 90 percent drop from the $300 million it has gotten most years. The program has bipartisan support from members of Congress from New York to Minnesota, some of whom pledged to fight the latest proposal to gut it.

"It is vital that protecting and preserving the Great Lakes remains a national priority," said Rep. Bill Huizenga, a Michigan Republican.

Rep. Marcy Kaptur, an Ohio Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, said the proposed reduction "is reckless, threatens our progress and puts the fresh water of over 30 million people at risk."

Also targeted for a 90 percent cut is the Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates science, research, and modeling efforts and distributes grants to states, local governments and others for cleanup projects in the nation's biggest estuary. It would get $7.3 million, down from $73 million this year.

"This is a slap in the face to a national treasure finally beginning to recover from decades of pollution," said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The Trump budget would zero out lesser sums for restoration work in the Gulf of Mexico, Lake Champlain, Long Island Sound, South Florida, San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound and several smaller waterways.

The EPA had no immediate comment.

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Follow John Flesher on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/johnflesher

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