An initial proposal from the White House Office of Management and Budget calls for alarming cuts to key Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) programs and funding that support the overall health of our Great Lakes. Jeopardized funding includes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) which pays for pollution cleanup, restoration, and further protection of critical areas in the Great Lakes region. The proposal would nearly eliminate annual GLRI funding, reducing it from $300 million to $10 million. This cut mirrors other massive reductions in the EPA’s budget that would cripple efforts to protect and restore the Great Lakes as well other vital natural resources and air and water quality across the country.
In Northwest Indiana, GLRI has had a major impact on our communities, as well as our treasured Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Recently, GLRI funding was used to restore 450 acres of native vegetation in the Great Marsh—a historical marsh from Burns Harbor to Michigan City that serves as a resting place for many migratory birds. Partners from various organizations also worked to restore the hydrology of an additional 200 acres of wetlands, creating more habitat for Indiana wildlife and increasing ecotourism opportunities.
GLRI has also helped improve the quality of life for many Northwest Indiana residents. Prior to the environmental regulations that we know today, industrial and sanitary discharges were common to the Grand Calumet River, creating a legacy of pollution. Communities such as Gary, Hammond, and East Chicago were greatly affected by the lingering contamination. With the help of GLRI funding and collaborative efforts, partners have been removing pollution in the waterway and restoring surrounding wetland habitat, making adjacent communities a healthier and safer place to live. Without GLRI funding to help aid in this endeavor, progress would be slowed or nonexistent.
While the proposed budget numbers are not finalized, Save the Dunes is extremely concerned about the possible reductions that would affect programs that support protecting drinking water, restoring wildlife habitat, and maintaining ecological function of natural resources. We hope you will join us in being a voice for the support of EPA funding for Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and other Great Lakes programming for the protection of our environment, our economy, and our quality of life.