Researcher, fisherman fear Lake Erie decline if Trump budget passes

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Researchers, fisherman, and lawmakers are concerned about the impact President Trump’s proposed budget cuts will have on Lake Erie’s conservation and development.

Many government programs could see deep cuts if Congress approves President Trump’s proposed budget. While defense spending would see a boost, other programs, like the Environmental Protection Agency, would be slashed.

The 62-page budget proposal released by the Trump Administration Thursday morning focuses on national security. Other environmental, agricultural, and arts programs would suffer a loss.

In Trump’s “blueprint” budget, the federal EPA would be hit hard, losing almost a third of its money.

Part of those cuts includes the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, which would lose all of its backing. That program helps pay for other groups doing conservation and education work on Lake Erie.

“We would see approximately a 20 percent reduction and so that clearly impacts the work that we can do,” said Dr. Chris Winslow, with the Ohio Sea Grant Program and the Ohio State University Stone Lab.

He fears these cuts will increase the amount of pollution and contaminants in the lake.

“We want a drinkable, fishable, swimmable system so when the EPA budget is reduced, their ability to maintain a lake that’s drinkable, fishable, swimmable, is hampered,” he said.

But concerns about the proposed budget don’t end there. Steve Morelan is a local fisherman who spends most of his summer on Lake Erie.

“Eliminating government waste is a good thing, but eliminating programs that would actually benefit the largest freshwater source in the world could become an issue,” he said.

Morelan would like lawmakers to experience the Great Lakes before approving any cuts.

Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown spoke out yesterday, saying Trump’s budget cuts would hurt business development and drinking water.

Winslow said he now needs to convince the government that the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a program worth saving.

“If the lake is healthy, it supports and has the potential to support a robust economy and so really, it’s one of those things we’re looking for a win-win.”

Mahoning County GOP Chairman Mark Munroe agreed Lake Erie is an important resource but said federal spending has been out of control and all programs need to be reevaluated.

“Were there proper uses for that money? How was that money being spent? Was it being spent on programs that make sense?”

Munroe said it’s important to remember the budget released Thursday is only the first of several steps in the process and will change.

A more complete version of the budget will be released in May.