Trump Administration: Importance of Great Lakes Cleanup Equal to Hosting a Military Parade

The Trump Administration on February 14 revealed that President Donald Trump’s proposed military parade, inspired by his attendance at the Bastille Day celebration last July in Paris, would cost taxpayers as much as $30 million.

While there’s been broad criticism of the appropriateness of such a display by the world’s sole military superpower, particularly in the context of federal budget deficits, it was the $30 million figure that stuck with me.

That’s because just two days earlier, the administration released its proposed $4.4 trillion fiscal year 2019 budget, which would severely cut core Great Lakes programs as well as funding for the federal agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, charged with implementing them.

Of key concern to FLOW and other Great Lakes policy groups is the proposed 90% cut from fiscal year 2017 budget levels to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), which helps communities clean up toxic pollution, reduce polluted runoff, fight invasive species such as Asian carp, and restore fish and wildlife habitat. Funding for the GLRI would be slashed from $300 million down to just… $30 million.

Thus, in the course of two days, the administration had equated the importance of restoring and protecting the world’s largest surface freshwater system with hosting a one-time military display.

Thankfully, proposed cuts have drawn bipartisan scorn from Michigan’s congressional delegation, which successfully protected the GLRI from elimination in last year’s budget. Rep. Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, released a statement saying, “Michigan deserves better than this. The health of our Great Lakes must be a higher priority.”

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who co-authored the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in 2010, pointed to the critical role that clean water plays in our economy, with more than 700,000 Michigan jobs – fully 1-in-5 jobs in the state – tied to water resources. Michigan projects have received more than $600 million in funding from the initiative since its start.

It’s the same success story across the watershed, where the Great Lakes generate more than 1.5 million jobs and $60 billion in wages annually, support a $7 billion fishing economy, and provide drinking water to more than 40 million people.

Kelly Thayer

Communities across the Great Lakes region are benefiting from economic recovery and re-investment thanks to the GLRI. Full implementation of the initiative is projected to generate $50 billion in long-term economic benefits for the region and a 2:1 return on investment, according to the Great Lakes Commission.

Visionary leaders are calling for a continued Midwest transformation from Rust Belt to Water Belt. Getting there requires steady, long-term investment and oversight – just the opposite of short-term grandstanding at a parade.

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