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Trump requests $77.6M for Great Lakes maintenance

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Detroit — While President Donald Trump’s proposed budget for 2018 would kill a $300 million-a-year Great Lakes cleanup program, his plan also calls for a $10 million increase for the upkeep of shipping channels and related infrastructure in the world’s largest freshwater system.

The Trump administration seeks a $77.6 million annual budget for major projects handled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Detroit District. The office oversees operations in Michigan and parts of Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The current budget for major projects for the Detroit office is $67 million, according to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers.

The budget proposes $38 million for navigation, hydropower and recreation projects at the Soo Locks. The locks are a series of canals and gates that allow ships to traverse the 21-foot drop between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. Trump’s budget seeks smaller sums for navigation or flood risk management at other locations, including Duluth, Minnesota; Fox River and Green Bay, Wisconsin; and Detroit, Saginaw and Holland, Michigan.

Also sought is $15 million for dredging projects around the district and $4.4 million to monitor lake levels and water flow.

Trump’s plan is not a formal bill for Congress to vote on, but rather it’s his outline for the federal budget for fiscal year 2018. The final budget needs congressional approval.

Trump also wants to eliminate a program called the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative , which is a coalition of federal agencies targeting environmental threats to the world's largest freshwater system. The program has been used to clean up toxic waste, control the spread of invasive species, restore habitat and detect and prevent toxic algae blooms.

The administration says state and local groups are “capable of taking on management of clean-up and restoration of these water bodies,” a budget memo says. But the initiative program has bipartisan support in Michigan and other Great Lakes states and members of Congress from several states have said they will fight to keep the program.

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, who co-chairs the Senate Great Lakes Task Force, slammed the administration for “zeroing out” the Great Lakes program, which funds the cleanup of degraded shorelines, fights against invasive species and aims to detect and prevent toxic algae blooms

“Thanks to thousands of people across Michigan speaking out, we already stopped cuts for this year,” Stabenow said in a statement. “This is a moment for Michigan when we all need to stand together to protect our Great Lakes.”

Twitter: @LouisAguilar_DN

The Associated Press contributed to this report.