Bush drains Great Lakes funds

Budget cuts could harm the health and economies of many Great Lakes.

President George W. Bush has proposed a new budget that has many environmentalists and Great Lakes enthusiasts up in arms. The president’s allocation of funds toward the management, cultivation and protection of the Great Lakes took a 16 percent cut from years past. The cuts will undermine continued efforts to clean up the Lakes and have damaging effects on the ecosystems and economies that rely on the Great Lakes system.

Bush cut the Lakes dredging system funds by some $50 million. Dredging is a vital part of any lake maintenance as it allows safe and effective transportation along the lakes. Given the near record-breaking low water levels last year, these cuts come at a very critical time. In a New York Times report printed last year, many ship canals were overdue for dredging, and some of the lakes had dried up.

The proposed budget would also cut nearly 20 percent of a program that helps communities around the Great Lakes update their wastewater treatment systems. The Great Lakes constitute one-fifth of the world’s fresh water supply, and the management of recycling of this resource is valuable to the affected communities.

Underfunding the Lakes could prove to be disastrous for the $4.5 billion fishing industry. Foreign species often find their way into the lakes and upset the ecosystem, killing off fish and overbreeding, resulting in a loss of tourism and fishing revenue that is vital for the economies the Great Lakes support.

This new allocation of funds for the Great Lakes unfortunately reinforces this administration’s lack of perspective in protecting natural environmental resources at home to pursue other interests abroad. It’s time this nation look inward to rebuild what infrastructures hold our economy and ecosystem together, as the Great Lakes most certainly do.

We hope that the next administration will invest properly in natural resources at home, because they can be sure to see increased returns in these essential resources.