Great Lakes need to be protected

The Great Lakes, shared by the United States and Canada, are among the world’s most majestic and important bodies of fresh water. But their health is threatened on several fronts. Unless dramatic action is taken to safeguard them, the lakes may become an aquatic disaster area.

Pollution and invasive species are just two of the concerns.

Water quality is threatened by both industrial and agricultural pollutants. They are hazards to the quality of drinking water and to recreational resources. They also could jeopardize the lakes’ $7 billion-a-year fishing industry.

Invasive species — about 180 new ones during recent years — also could upset the lakes’ ecosystem. One, Asian carp, is such a concern that some waterways flowing into Lake Michigan have been blocked with electrified mesh to keep the invasive fish from getting into the lake.

Recognizing both the range and magnitude of challenges facing the lakes, federal agencies have been pouring money into them for several years, through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. But President Donald Trump’s budget called for scaling the funding back dramatically.

Many members of Congress disagree. A bipartisan group of senators is advancing a bill that would ensure the initiative receives $300 million next year.

Good. The Great Lakes are too important to be allowed to deteriorate.

At the same time, the money needs to be spent efficiently and effectively. Lawmakers who want to overrule Trump on the funding itself should enlist in his campaign to cut waste in federal spending. Merely providing the $300 million and assuming it will do the desired good would not be prudent, as surely we have learned from other massive federal campaigns.