House panel funds Great Lakes cleanup, Asian carp

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — House appropriators late Tuesday approved a bill that rejects a Trump administration proposal to eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and gives the Fish and Wildlife Service an extra $10.4 million to fight invasive Asian carp.

The Appropriations Committee voted 30-21 to send to the full U.S. House a spending bill for environmental programs that fully funds the Great Lakes cleanup program with $300 million for 2018.

President Donald Trump’s budget office had proposed zeroing out that program, along with other geographic programs for improving the Chesapeake Bay and the Puget Sound.

Republican Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland, who serves on the Appropriations panel, had pushed to maintain support for the Great Lakes program at the same level as previous years.

“This funding will protect the Great Lakes for all Michigan residents to enjoy for years to come,” Moolenaar said in a statement. “I will continue to be an advocate for the GLRI and the work it does for our state when it comes up for a vote before the entire House.”

A portion of the funding directed to combat Asian carp – $2 million – supplements money provided through the restoration initiative for intensive fishing that aims to reduce the population of the invasive species. The bill also maintains last year’s funding of $5.62 million for the U.S. Geological Survey for Asian carp control.

Environmentalists and lawmakers from Michigan and other Great Lakes states expressed alarm last month after an adult silver carp was found nine miles from Lake Michigan, well beyond the electric barrier network in the Chicago waterway system designed to keep the fish from reaching the Great Lakes. A two-week monitoring of the water discovered no other invasive carp.

House appropriators are also refusing the administration’s proposal to slash grant funding that reimburses universities for overhead costs related to biomedical research.

Administrators at the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Wayne State University had opposed cutting reimbursements for facilities and administrative costs as part of the grants they receive from the National Institutes of Health. The universities said the proposed cap would force them to reduce or eliminate the NIH research they conduct.

A draft of the committee’s spending bill for labor and health programs published Tuesday says members appreciated Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price’s efforts to find “efficiencies” in NIH research spending, but called the proposed cap “misguided.”

The measure, which will be considered by the full committee on Wednesday, also prohibits the use of funding in the bill to be used to implement any further caps on overhead cost reimbursements for NIH-sponsored grants.

“The NIH employs some of our country’s best and brightest minds and this important funding will help ensure they are able to continue doing life-saving research,” Moolenaar said.

Gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region and Wyoming would be removed from the endangered list under the committee’s environment spending bill.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation in December that could permit wolf hunting again in the Upper Peninsula if the animal is taken off the endangered list.

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