Environmentalists react to proposed cuts in Great Lakes clean-up program

February 15, 2011

Associated Press and Emily Wilensky

(WBEZ/Emily Wilensky)
A swim advisory flag warns that bacteria levels in Lake Michigan are high. The GLRI provides funding to monitor bacteria levels

Some environmentalist groups say slashing funding for the EPA wouldn't be good for the Great Lakes. President Obama's proposed 2012 budget would cut 125 million dollars slated for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Cameron Davis is a senior advisor to the EPA on Great Lakes issues. He said the program is designed to deal with problems that have been around for decades.

“Things like beach closings and swimming bans,” he said. “Things like habitat loss and trying to clean up our toxic hot spots that continue to threaten public health and property values around the region.”
Another area that is addressed by the initiative is the prevention and monitoring of invasive species like the Asian Carp. Thom Cmar is an attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council. He says money from the program has already helped build electric barriers to try to keep the fish out of the Great Lakes and surrounding waterways.
President Obama has called for $350 million for the initiative in 2012, down from $475 million in 2010. But House Republicans have proposed a continuing resolution that would decrease that number to $225 million. 
Joel Brammeier is president of the Alliance for the Great Lakes. He said the plan is meant to build year after year, so funding uncertainties can disrupt work on the ground and could lead to increased costs in the long run. That's because many projects are implemented in phases, and if too much time passes before they begin, changes might need to be made to engineering and construction plans.