Whitmer wants 58% federal funding hike for Great Lakes

Laina G. Stebbins

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday sent a letter to federal lawmakers urging them to increase an annual fund for combating Great Lakes environmental problems to $475 million.

Whitmer asked U.S. Reps. Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and other members of a federal subcommittee that deals with water and environmental issues to increase funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) by $175 million annually for five years.

Congress previously authorized $300 million a year, from 2011 through 2019.

The governor’s request comes after President Donald Trump earlier this year proposed cutting 90% of that funding in a budget proposal before deciding to reinstate the program in his recommendation to Congress.

Whitmer, Huizenga hail Great Lakes funding restoration request

U.S. Reps. Bill Huizenga (R-Zeeland), John Moolenaar (R-Midland) and Jack Bergman (R-Watersmeet) attended a Trump rally in Grand Rapids this March in which the president assured the audience that he’s “going to get … full funding, $300 million for the Great Lakes.”

Congress would still have to approve that funding.

Gretchen Whitmer, March 18, 2019 | Andrew Roth

Whitmer said in a statement that the Great Lakes money positively impacts the state’s economy and environment.

“Our successes are clear evidence as to why the program should be reauthorized and fully funded,” she said.

The governor’s letter touts a long list of projects the fund has paid for over the years and notes future environmental challenges in the Great Lakes, including invasive species, the effects of climate change and toxic sediment.

“Harmful algal blooms caused by runoff from farm fields threaten our water systems and economy,” Whitmer continued in the letter. “Communities across the Great Lakes region face aging, crumbling drinking water and wastewater infrastructure while lead, copper and emerging contaminants such as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) pose risks to the safety of our drinking water.”

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