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Lake Ontario at a 'crossroads' as Trump proposes massive cuts to Great Lakes program

Trump has proposed a 97 per cent cut to a program dedicated to restoring the Great Lakes. It could end an era of renewal for Lake Ontario, say advocates.

Funding for Great Lakes restoration is under threat in a proposed budget cut that President Donald Trump is expected to unveil on Thursday.

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Funding for Great Lakes restoration is under threat in a proposed budget cut that President Donald Trump is expected to unveil on Thursday.

Lake Ontario’s health is “precarious” and President Donald Trump’s proposed funding cuts for Great Lakes programs could dash hopes of restoring it, says Lake Ontario Waterkeeper.

With 90 per cent of coastal marshland wiped out in urban areas and bacteria rates from storm water and sewage pollution in Toronto Harbour spiking, the lake is at a cross roads says Krystyn Tully, the charity’s vice president.

"We need to be investing more money in more restoration, not cutting money and hoping for the best,” Tully said.

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The U.S. budget proposal is expected to slash 97 per cent of the funding from the $300 million program.

Funds from the program go to U.S. projects. But the entire lake system — the largest surface fresh water eco system on Earth — would be affected by a cut, with programs like Asian carp control on the chopping block.

The program, which started under President George W. Bush, sparked a renaissance for lake restoration. The first big push for clean-up efforts started around the 1980s, Tully said, when trouble spots, such as Hamilton Harbour and Port Hope, the former site of a nuclear plant, were identified. Work to repair those areas is still ongoing.

It would also signal Washington’s general disinterest in the lakes, say advocates, who argue other governments would need to step up to provide support.

Canada has never had a similar initiative although it’s long been needed, said Tony Maas, manager of strategy for non-profit Freshwater Future.

Ontario’s environment ministry has discussed how to respond if the U.S. budget cut goes through. It would reach out to U.S. counterparts at the state level to discuss joint funding efforts, if need be, Minister Glen Murray’s office confirmed to Metro News.

And Maas says there is a bi-partisan congressional coalition, as well as local mayors and governors that are speaking out against cuts. The budget cut, expected to be officially unveiled Thursday, would need to pass Congress before being approved.

It’s a crucial time, says Tully, with the next few years dictating “whether we see restoration of swimmable, drinkable, fishable water on the lake, or whether the decline that we've seen for the last century continues,” she said.

“And it could go either way.”

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