Up until now, the EPA has been integral to the clean up and restoration of Lake Erie. Without the funding the EPA receives and redistributes, the great lake would quickly decline back to the dead state it was in back in the 1970’s.
But all of this is at risk. While the budget won’t be official until Congress votes, the current proposal threatens Lake Erie in a number of ways, mostly by threatening the EPA’s budget.
EPA staff may be cut by a fifth, and budget may be reduced from $8.2 billion to as low as $5.7 billion. This would include decimating the budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which could be reduced from $300 million per year to only $10 million. The GLRI has played a big part in having the US and Canada work together to keep the lakes useable.
Also threatened by the budget cuts is the NOAA, which includes the Sea Grant and the Stone Lab with Ohio State University, and its satellite program, which was able to save Toledo from a second water ban in 2015. The research and monitoring provided has saved lives and money by protecting the water.
The loss of funding to these programs could easily lead to the lake being declared dead once again, which would devastate the surrounding lands and the people who live there. The loss of money would be substantial as well, as tourism and other industries grind to a halt.
There’s another budget cut proposed that would impact the lakes, and that’s an agriculture cut. Funding for agriculture would continue for big farms, but would be substantially reduced for the small farms who already have a hard time. This could mean that big farms continue unfettered, while small farms struggle to survive while also struggling to minimize their impact on the environment.
The one ray of hope is that this is only a proposed budget, and there’s a good change it won’t get past the senate. The senate seems to be largely against these cuts, so hopefully they won’t go through. Because if they do, we could lose Lake Erie.