Proposed U.S. cuts to Great Lakes restoration raise concerns
Funding cuts would 'send us back into the stone age,' in terms of Great Lakes monitoring, says Michael Rennie
Drastic cuts to Great Lakes protection in U.S. President Trump's proposed budget are raising concerns for residents of northwestern Ontario living on the shore of Lake Superior.
If approved by Congress, the budget would gut the $300 million dollar budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a program dedicated to looking after the environmental health of the Great Lakes.
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Its loss would impact freshwater monitoring and research on both sides of the border, said Michael Rennie, an assistant professor in the biology department at Lakehead University, in Thunder Bay.
"To pull that funding ... I mean it would send us back into the stone age in terms of being able to understand and monitor what's happening with the lakes," he said.
"There's international collaboration on the lakes, and science that goes on on these lakes occurring every day, and I think that — well I know — that would be massively impacted if these cuts were to go ahead."
Christy Radbourne, a public school principal living in Thunder Bay, Ont., is watching developments in the U.S. from a unique vantage point.
Originally from the United States, she used to work as a special agent with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
She's now concerned about a downloading of responsibility from the U.S. federal government, to individual states.
States will now "be able to make the decisions as to what's dumped into the lakes, or what's allowed to be discharged into the lakes, or what's allowed to be trafficked on the lakes," she said, "and those decisions, often as we know ... will be based on economics."
When it comes to looking after the health of the Great Lakes, if the U.S. funding is cut, Canada simply won't be able to do it alone, said Rennie.
"Take away anything going on from a major funding partner with a population that's ten times the size of Canada, and all of the sudden we've got a huge problem on our hands," he said.