A slew of U.S. senators sent a bipartisan letter to the Environmental Protection Agency Friday urging the agency not to cut funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
President Donald Trump’s budget plan proposes a 97 percent budget cut from the program.
The letter, addressed to newly appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, expressed concern about the potential cut to the program’s nearly $300 million budget.
The senators wrote that they “were pleased by the clear support [Pruitt] expressed for the program,” and that they “hope [Pruitt] will continue to support the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative by fully funding this program in the upcoming budget request.”
Among those who penned the letter, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., was the only Wisconsin politician to sign.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a federal program that launched in 2010 with the goal of restoring, maintaining and protecting the Great Lakes system.
According to the program’s website, the Great Lakes system is the largest system of fresh surface water in the world.
The funding the initiative receives is put toward efforts like invasive species prevention, restoration of wetlands and other habitats and the facilitation of outreach initiatives. In Wisconsin, protecting the lakes from invasive species has cost the state $3.5 billion.
A 97-percent cut to the initiative's budget would bring its total funding to roughly $10 million a year.
The proposed budget cuts to the program have been met with scrutiny from local representatives as well.
Racine Mayor John Dickert, met with political talk show host Mike Gousha to describe the possible economic and environmental consequences of cutting the Great Lake initiative's funding.
Dickert said that if invasive species like Asian carp were not regulated, it “would devastate fishing industry.”
Dickert also explained that homes in Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin could be damaged if the shoreline were not protected from erosion, a problem the initiative uses its budget to control.
“I don’t think people understand the fragility of these lakes,” Dickert told the The Cap Times. “Once you take [these funds] away and those issues start to erode, they erode quickly.”