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Great Lakes to get extra funds

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Additional funds provided by Congress for Great Lakes environmental improvements will be used to hasten cleanups of highly toxic sites and step up work on other longstanding forms of pollution, federal officials said Thursday.

Lawmakers last fall put $320 million into the 2020 budget for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a multiyear program that focuses on some of the region’s most pervasive ecological problems. It was a $20 million boost over the amount appropriated in most years since the program began a decade ago.

“With this additional $20 million, we will be able to target many harder-to-solve challenge areas like invasive species and high nutrient loads,” said Andrew Wheeler, administrator of the Environmental Protection agency, which distributes the money for projects across the eight-state region.

The Trump administration has warmed to the program, which enjoys bipartisan support in Congress, after proposing in earlier budgets to cut most or all of its funding. The administration supported full funding for this year and fiscal 2021, Wheeler said in a call with reporters, describing President Donald Trump as “a fan of the Great Lakes.”

Environmental advocates said the spending increase didn’t compensate for other administration policies that harm the lakes, such as a rollback of federal jurisdiction over many streams and wetlands that feed them.

“Andrew Wheeler can’t have it both ways — you either protect clean water or you don’t,” said Mary Brady-Enerson, Michigan Director for Clean Water Action. “Despite this needed increase in funding for the GLRI, Trump’s EPA has steadily eroded protections for our water over the past three years.”