Amid efforts to slash Great Lakes budget, local leaders ready to fight

Proposed budget cuts announced by the White House would effectively eliminate the bulk of restoration efforts for the Great Lakes. (Jim Nelson/WNWO).

Advocates and congresisonal leaders say they are ready to fight for Lake Erie after the White House announced plans to drastically cut funding to Great Lakes restoration efforts.

Almost all funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is on the chopping block. The program focuses primarily on reducing toxic algal blooms in the lakes as well as combating invasive species.

An additional $250 million would also be cut from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) coastal grants and programs. Experts say that would effective end the agency's ability to forecast and track harmful blooms.

Further, NOAA's Sea Grant College Program is in danger -- that includes the Stone Lab near Put-in-Bay, which also helps track the algae.

"Ohio and Michigan are on the western edge of Lake Erie. We know the problems we have and we know we need some real porgrams that are going to work," says Mike Ferner, an advocate for properly maintaining Lake Erie as a functioning natural resource.

The former Toledo councilman and 2015 candidate for mayor says more needed to be done to prevent toxins from getting into the lake's tributaries. He adds that reducing all efforts to restore the Great Lakes only makes matters worse.

On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are perplexed by the White House plan.

"I don't think the President knows really anything much about the Great Lakes. He's a New York City guy," quipped Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio democrat.

Brown, who grew up near Cleveland, says he is passionate about the Great Lakes.

Not unlike Ferner, who recently submitted a letter to the president urging him to protect the Great Lakes.

There were times while campaigning that Trump said he intended to work with officials to make the lakes a priority. Ferner says the recent change in tune is sending the wrong message to many voters who helped Trump win the presidency.

"Precisely what he's doing is turning his back on the people that got him there," Ferner said.

And he thinks Trump will soon find out just how important the issue is.

"He's going to see some serious pushback from citizens and elected officials that represent some of these areas."

Echoing the words of Sen. Brown, who has been joined by republican colleague Sen. Rob Portman in publicly speaking against the proposed cuts.

"We will stand up to the President on this one," Brown said.

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