President Donald Trump has reversed course when it comes to protecting the Great Lakes, saying he would reverse part of his administration’s own budget plan, which had proposed a 90 percent spending cut for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
He made the surprise announcement at a rally Thursday night in Michigan. Trump said he would fully fund the cleanup program, offering the $300 million the program has typically received.
“I support the Great Lakes,” he said. “Always have. They’re beautiful. They’re big. Very deep, record deepness, right? And I’m going to get in honor of my friends full funding of $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.”
Trump’s 2020 spending blueprint for the Environmental Protection Agency previously included cutting most or all federal support for waterway clean-up 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 previous budget offered $30 million for the initiative — a 90 percent drop from the $300 million it has gotten most years.