CLEVELAND - Funding for projects to clean and revitalize the Great Lakes would be drastically cut under a Trump Administration budget proposal for the U.S. EPA.
The proposal would reduce funding for the agency's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by about 97 percent, from $300 million to $10 million.
GLRI was started in 2010 and has funded more than 3,000 projects to fight toxic substances that cause algae blooms, invasive species like Asian carp and other pollution.
In 2016, GLRI funded projects to clean up the Black River in Lorain and the Cuyahoga River, to reduce storm water run off along the Chagrin River and elsewhere and protect shoreline habitats and grasses in the Mentor Marsh.
About 11 million depend on Lake Erie for clean drinking water, and it's also a major economic driver for Northeast Ohio.
"We all value and appreciate clean drinking water, and if you just take it down to the most common thing which is drinking water, this is a threat to our drinking water and to Lake Erie," said Crystal M.C. Davis, Policy Director of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. Davis said that, if implemented, the cut would roll back years of work.
The Trump budget proposal has not yet been officially submitted to Congress, but lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have spoken out against the cuts.
"This is a real threat to our entire ecosystem, our maritime industry, to every community and every person who swims in Lake Erie or fishes on Lake Erie," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Democrat who represents Ohio's 9th District, which includes much of the Lake Erie shoreline west of Cleveland.
"A significant cut will do great harm, not just to Lake Erie, but to all the Great Lakes and, frankly, the entire country. People want clean water and clean air."
She was among a bipartisan group of 47 lawmakers who signed a letter to President Trump opposing the cuts and supporting the GLRI program.
"Obviously, I was shocked someone would make that drastic cut toward a program that has obviously been, I think, a gem as far as all agencies working and acting in concert to achieve a common goal," said Republican Rep. Dave Joyce, who represents Ohio's 14th District, which includes the Lake County shoreline. "At the end of five years, judge us by our results, but you can't cut out in the middle of the process all the good work that's been done over the years.
Joyce serves on the House Appropriations Committee and said he will be working to lobby other lawmakers to maintain the additional funding.
Senator Rob Portman said in a statement to FOX 8, “This initiative has been a successful tool in our efforts to help protect and restore Lake Erie, and I will continue to fight for it just as I did when the Obama administration proposed cuts to the program.”
Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said cuts to GLRI pose a direct threat to Lake Erie and progress made imp ring the health of the Great Lakes.
"If these reports are true, I will fight like help in the Senate appropriations process by working with my Republican and Democratic colleagues to restore this funding in full," Brown said in a statement.
Davis said the Alliance for the Great Lakes and other advocacy groups would be in Washington D.C. next week, speaking with lawmakers about the importance of the program.
**this article was updated on 3-10-17 to reflect a statement from Senator Rob Portman**