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Funding bump for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative gets thumbs up in U.S. House

Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

The U.S. House voted on Wednesday to greatly increase funding for cleaning up the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has annually received $300 million a year since it started in 2010.   

Under the bill passed this week, the funding would increase to $475 million over the next five years. The U.S. Senatemay act soon on its own funding bill.

In the past decade, the GLRI has funded thousands of clean-up projects across the Great Lakes. 

“They are cleaning up contaminated sites in Detroit, in Muskegon, in Grand Rapids, in Chicago and Cleveland,” says Laura Rubin, with the Healing Our Waters Great Lakes Coalition. “So a lot of our most highly contaminated and post-industrial sites are getting cleaned up and revitalized.”

At a time when Washington is deeply divided on many issues, support for the funding united members of Michigan’s congressional delegation.

“The strength of Michigan’s economy is directly tied to the long-term health of the Great Lakes,” says Representative Tim Walberg (R-Tipton). “As stewards of the Great Lakes, it is incumbent on us to take care of them so that future generations can enjoy their beauty and economic benefits.”

“The Great Lakes are not only a natural resource, but a way of life that support communities and jobs throughout the region,” says Representative Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn). “Protecting the Great Lakes is critical.”

But President Donald Trump remains a wild card.

In his first budget proposals, the president proposed major cutsto the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  

“Donald Trump has repeatedly broken his promise to protect the Great Lakes, fighting relentlessly to slash critical funding to protect Michigan’s water,” says Michigan Democratic Party spokesman Christian Slater. 

Laura Rubin says she believes the Trump administration is backing away from previous efforts to slash funding for the program.

“We don’t want to make Great Lakes Restoration Initiative a partisan issue,” says Rubin. “We’re worried about making it more of a political issue when we’ve had great support on both sides.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.