Opposition efforts underway in response to proposed Great Lakes funding cuts

Mar 8, 2017

An Erie County Legislator and local advocates for Great Lakes cleanup say the Trump Administration's proposed cuts to such efforts would prove harmful not only to the water and wildlife in it but also the local economy.

The Trump Administration's ideas include a proposed 97-percent reduction in funding to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, cutting dollars from the current $300 million over the next five years down to $10 million in that same time span.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke speaks atop the Old County Courthouse in downtown Buffalo, where the Erie County Legislature chambers are located, urging the public to oppose proposed funding cuts to Great Lakes cleanup efforts.
Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO

"Pulling away GLRI funding would reduce projects that slow down runoff on agricultural land, projects that reduce urban runoff that comes from our streets and our lawns, and even monitoring projects on the western basin," said Nate Drag of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. "They have buoys that they've set in the lake that can track the growth of harmful algae blooms. When it gets to certain levels they can water intake managers and recreation users."

The Administration is also considering a rollback of former President Obama's 2015 Clean Water Rule, which according to Drag extends regulations set in the Clean Water Act into smaller tributaries.

Erie County Legislator Patrick Burke says the proposed cuts to Great Lakes and other local waterway cleanup efforts are simply unacceptable. Standing on a rooftop outside the Legislature's offices in downtown Buffalo, with a distant view of Lake Erie and a boat slowly removing the ice boom over his shoulder, Burke announced his proposed county resolution that condemns such cuts. 

He says to roll back cleanup efforts would devastate not only the water quality but also the jobs that have come to depend on it in a "blue economy." He cited examples including fishing tournaments and local tourist attractions that rely on the water. Losing those, he warned, would cost millions of dollars for the local economy.

Burke has also launched an online petition to grow grassroots opposition to proposed federal cuts.

"We are the custodians of the Great Lakes and we will ensure that they will continue to be protected," Burke said. "I am asking for all Western New Yorkers, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, to join together to tell the Trump Administration that Western New York will not abide funding cuts to the Great Lakes."

Drag says next week, March 15 and 16, advocates for Great Lakes environmental protection will travel to Washington D.C. to meet with federal lawmakers in the hope of discouraging any support for proposed cutbacks.

"We kind of spread out on the Hill and try to hit as many offices as we can and just say restoration funding is crucial to our region," Drag said. "Not just for our communities but for our economies, and the Environmental Protection Agency is vital to our health and our drinking water."