With so much trepidation and uncertainty surrounding the coming Trump presidency, this much at least, thankfully, seems now to be assured: The worthwhile commitment to cleaning up and restoring the Great Lakes following decades of factory-spewing, sewage-oozing, industrial and wastewater pollution will continue at least another five years.
The U.S. Senate last weekend voted 78-21 in favor of the $12 billion Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, which includes $300 million per year through 2021 for the ongoing Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. The U.S. House also approved the measure. President Barack Obama can remain consistent by signing it into law.
“Our 21st-century economy demands 21st-century infrastructure, and that requires investments in our waterways like the all-important Great Lakes,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said this week in a statement to the media, including to the News Tribune Opinion page. “That’s why I fought hard to include provisions that will protect and restore fish and wildlife habitats in the Great Lakes. This bill supports water infrastructure projects that will boost our economy and help ensure that our children’s drinking water is safe and free of lead.”
The $300 million a year being allocated is in line with past apportionments and with the amount originally targeted when Great Lakes restoration was first made a priority under President George W. Bush.
As the News Tribune’s John Myers reported this week, the initiative pays for projects that clean up fish and wildlife habitat, reduce runoff from cities and farms, fight invasive species, and clean up toxic pollution.
In the Northland, projects funded by the initiative have included removing century-old wood waste from Duluth’s Radio Tower Bay on the St. Louis River estuary and restoring fish habitat and public access along the lower St. Louis River.
Ongoing Great Lakes cleanup funding has now been reassured, but perhaps trepidation and uncertainty over what President-elect Donald Trump might do with regard to this important priority are misplaced. In October, Trump’s campaign was asked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel whether the then-candidate supported measures and federal spending to keep pollution and invasives out of the Great Lakes.
“The Great Lakes contain 20 (percent) of all surface freshwater on the planet and are an outstanding and unique natural resource that more than 35 million people in eight states depend on,” Trump’s campaign responded. “This would be a tremendous disaster if we let this go to waste. As president, Donald J. Trump will work alongside organizations such as the National Wildlife Foundation to clean up toxic sediments, protect and restore wildlife habitat and wetlands, reduce polluted runoff, halt new invasive species, and stop sewage from contaminating the lakes. In addition, Donald J. Trump will work with Congress to promote effective legislation and ensure the Clean Water Act is upheld.”
In five years, if Trump is re-elected, we can hold him to his word.
Actually, when it comes to ongoing Great Lakes restoration — and a whole lot of other issues, too — we can hold him accountable from day one.