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Opinion

Great Lakes Restoration Initiative survives Trump’s assault on environment

Visitors check out the habitat restoration of Cuttle Creek in Marysville in 2016.
Visitors check out the habitat restoration of Cuttle Creek in Marysville in 2016.

Blue Water Area: 10 major projects in 10 years

By Jim Bloch

For the first time since its inception in 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has received increased funding. For the fiscal year 2020, the U.S. Congress appropriated $330 million for the program, which funds habitat restoration, environmental cleanup and invasive species control throughout the basin, a seven percent increase.

Just before Christmas, Senator Debbie Stabenow made the announcement of the $30 million jump in funding. She noted that the budget passed both houses and that Trump signed the spending bills even though he had zeroed out the GLRI in each of his own budget proposals to date.

As of March 2019, the GLRI had funded 4,858 projects throughout the Great Lakes, pouring nearly $2.5 billion into the health of the basin.

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In the past decade, the GLRI has funneled nearly $21 million into our local waterways via 10 major restoration projects, according to Friends of the St. Clair River.

Cottrellville Township removed 400 feet of seawall and restored the newly open shoreline with a $2.5 million GLRI grant; Cuttle Creek in Marysville was naturalized in its run through Marysville Golf Course, $2.6 million; Marine City Drain was restored where it intersects with the St. Clair River, $980,000; invasive species were removed and native flora planted along a stretch of shoreline in south Port Huron, $500,000; three new spawning reefs were built in the St. Clair River — in the Middle Channel, at Harts Light and at the Point aux Chenes reef — for native fish, including sturgeon, $4.39 million; about a mile of seawall was removed and the shoreline restored in Marysville, $1.5 million; the industrial shoreline along the St. Clair River, south of the Black River, was rehabilitated and the Blue Water River Walk was built in Port Huron, $2.25 million; St. Clair County Parks won a $1 million+ grant to construct a Wetland Park south of the walk; another stretch shoreline in north Port Huron was restored, $1.2 million; and the Krispin Drain on Harsens Island was rehabilitated, $4 million.

This kind of commitment to the environment has become increasingly rare under the Trump administration.

Trump’s assault on the earth

Donald Trump wasted no time in launching a multi-pronged attack on the environment after taking the oath of office in January 2017.

National Geographic has been keep a running tally on Trump’s affronts to the earth.

Four days after being sworn in, Trump signs executive orders designed to streamline the building of the Dakota Access and Keystone XL pipelines. In March, the State Dept. gives a permit to Keystone XL to build its pipeline from Alberta to Texas.

Within five days, all references to climate change were scratched from the White House website. In April, the department of interior followed suit. The EPA abandoned its climate change website that same month.

Trump appointed ExxonMobil chief executive officer Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Trump reversed Obama rules that made it harder for coal companies to dump mining waste into rivers.

On Feb. 17, Trump named Scott Pruitt to head the EPA. As Oklahoma attorney general, Pruitt frequently sued the EPA. In March, the EPA’s Office of Science and Technology erased “science” from its mission statement. Pruitt said that science isn’t clear on the role of carbon dioxide in climate change — even though more than 97 percent of all scientists agree that manmade heat-trapping gases are causing global warming.

In March, Trump signed an executive order designed to reverse many of Obama’s efforts to curb climate change.

Pruitt went against his own chemical safety experts and refused to ban the Dow Chemical pesticide chlorpyrifos, associated with brain damage in kids and farmworkers.

In April, Pruitt called on the U.S. to exit the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement. In June, Trump said he will pull the country out of the agreement.

Trump proposed a 31 percent cut in the budget of the EPA, the steepest of any department, in his 2018 budget, including eliminating the GLRI, which Congress later fully funded.

In August, the administration halted a health study of residents near a mountain top removal coal mine in Virginia.

The EPA announced it will scrap the Clean Power Plan, Obama’s effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by 30 percent before 2030.

In October, Interior announced the auction of 77 million acres of federal waters for offshore drilling, the largest auction ever.

In December, Trump took “climate change” off the list of national security threats.

These examples come from Trump’s first year in office.

Three more bright lights

Three other bright spots in the Trump ecological night merit mention.

In 2018, in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke extended a ban on mining in a 30,000-acre area near Yellowstone National Park in his home state of Montana.

Wetland Park in Port Huron benefitted from a GLRI grant of $1 million.
Wetland Park in Port Huron benefitted from a GLRI grant of $1 million.

While environmental groups lauded the action, many noted that Zinke opened lands in other states to mining, such as Bears Ear National Monument and the Grand Staircase-Escalante, both in Utah, and the Boundary Waters in Minnesota.

In October 2018, Trump signed legislation designed to help clean up plastic trash from the oceans.

In March 2019, Trump signed a bill protecting more than two million acres of public land, affecting nearly all states, designating 1.3 million more acres as wilderness and protecting 676 miles of river. The Pew Charitable Trust called it “a rare display of Congressional bipartisanship” and “the most significant conservation legislation in a decade.” The bill was named for Michigan’s longtime congressman John D. Dingell, Jr. who died a month before the omnibus bill was signed. In December at a rally in Grand Rapids, Trump suggested Dingell went to hell and insulted his widow, Debbie, who now holds his Congressional seat.

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