Like many of you, I was concerned when I first heard that President Trump planned to cut funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. That concern turned to shock when I heard that the funding was nearly eliminated altogether — a 97 percent reduction.
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI) sprang from the Great Lakes Compact, a regional commitment to protecting our natural resources that was approved by a bipartisan coalition that included all eight Great Lakes states, the U.S. Congress, and President George W. Bush. Long before I was elected county executive I was lucky enough to be involved with the organizations that advanced the research that led to the Great Lakes Compact. Today, both in office and as a citizen, I remain an ardent supporter of and advocate for the protection of our fresh water.
The GLRI has funded millions of dollars in Milwaukee County Parks alone, to include a four-year, $43 million cleanup effort along the Milwaukee River and a $1.4 million investment in waterway improvements at South Shore and other parks.
Since the GLRI began the need for fresh water hasn’t gone down; it’s gone up. One only needs to look to the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan or the freshwater emergency that impacted hundreds of thousands of Ohioans in the Toledo area back in 2014 to know that we must protect the Great Lakes, which hold 20 percent of the entire world’s freshwater.
I strongly oppose the president’s proposed decimation of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
Environmentalists, business owners, and politicians from across the divide have historically been advocates for our freshwater and they are speaking out now as well. Yesterday, Milwaukee Riverkeeper, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, and Gov. Scott Walker all spoke out in favor of restoring Great Lakes funding. And for good reason — the Great Lakes are a spectacular and rare treasure for all of us and we must protect them. Preserving these natural treasures isn’t idealistic or naïve; it’s part of who we are as a country.
I will be writing Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation to ask that they oppose this cut and I urge you to do the same. To find your elected officials visit: https://myvote.wi.gov/en-US/MyElectedOfficials
Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele