A coalition of 26 U.S. senators from across America are calling upon Congress to maintain funding for the $63 million National Sea Grant College Program, a bread-and-butter account for much of western Lake Erie’s most important algae and research, as well as scientific studies into the primary cause of it, agricultural runoff.
President Donald Trump has proposed eliminating the program in his 2018 budget.
Researchers such as Jeff Reutter, special adviser to Ohio Sea Grant and Ohio State University’s venerable Stone Laboratory on Gibraltar Island, have stated numerous times in recent weeks that gutting the National Sea Grant College Program would devastate Great Lakes efforts and almost undoubtedly turn back progress, much like Mr. Trump’s plan to cut U.S. Environmental Protection Agency more than 30 percent and eliminate the agency’s $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative that former President Barack Obama began in 2009.
The coalition includes members of both parties, but - so far - is mostly Democrats and Independents.
A request has been placed with the office of U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) on whether he plans to sign the letter.
Democrat U.S. senators Sherrod Brown of Ohio, as well as Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, have signed it.
U.S. Reps. Bob Latta (R., Bowling Green) and Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo) were asked what they believe should be done in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mr. Latta's office said he recognizes the Sea Grant program is "a valuable asset to the region" and "an important resource to local communities, businesses, and policymakers."
"I support fully funding the National Sea Grant program, and commend bipartisan efforts to ensure this program can continue well into the future," Mr. Latta said.
But Miss Kaptur, in a statement issued by her press secretary, said the Great Lakes region’s economic prospects are tied directly to work supported by the National Sea Grant College Program, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Sea Grant supports research, outreach and coastal initiatives that are critical to our fight against harmful algal blooms, invasive species, and other Great Lakes threats,” Miss Kaptur said. “The President’s short-sighted budget would roll back years of effort to achieve good science on the Great Lakes and decimate our work to train the next generation of Great Lakes scientists.”
NOAA is one of several federal agencies the Trump administration has targeted because of their work in climate change.
Republicans who have signed the letter include U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R., La.) and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R., Maine).
“We urge you to reject the administration’s proposed elimination of the National Sea Grant College Program… [and] continue to support at least the current funding level of $63 million,” according to the letter, which is addressed to Richard Shelby and Jeanne Shaheen of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
“As senators from some of the 33 states with Sea Grant Programs, we see firsthand how this federal investment is leveraged locally to bring immense returns to coastal communities, fishermen, universities, and students. Any cuts to this funding would have a devastating impact and we strongly urge you to reject any proposals to reduce this program,” the letter states.
The 25 senators said the $67.3 federal investment in the program from fiscal year 2015 yielded a $575 million economic benefit to communities across the country, which they said translates to a 854 percent return on the federal investment.
In 2013, Sea Grant was funded at $57 million and delivered $485 million in economic development, created or retained 3,400 businesses, and created or retained 15,000 jobs nationally, according to the letter.
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