News Feature | March 16, 2017

What Does A Trump Budget Mean For Toxic Algae?

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome

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Critics are concerned that an expected budget proposal from President Trump, if adopted, would gut programs designed to protect water sources from toxic algae.

Toxic algae contamination poses a considerable threat to drinking water. In 2014, water use was banned in Toledo, OH, for over two days as a result of toxic algae on Lake Erie, CNN and other outlets reported at the time.

Environmentalists worry that “the constellation of federal projects that protect people in places like Toledo from toxic algae blooms will be dismantled by coming federal budget cuts signaled by President Donald Trump—even as annual agriculture-driven algal blooms continue to threaten the cities clustered around Lake Erie,” Mother Jones reported.

Trump is set to release a budget proposal on Thursday, according to The Washington Post. In the meantime, Mother Jones pieced together clues on what he will propose and made a list of anti-algae programs that may be at risk in a Trump budget.

One program is the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Sea Grant College Program.

“Trump's budget proposal would eliminate the Sea Grant completely, for a total savings of $73 million annually,” the report said, citing a U.S. Office of Management and Budget memo obtained by The Washington Post.

Why critics dislike that idea, per Mother Jones: The program funds research and monitoring that helps water officials “figure out when a toxic bloom is headed to the parts of Lake Erie where they draw water.”

Another program potentially on the chopping block: NOAA's satellite program.

“NOAA's satellite program ‘would be hardest hit’ by Trump's proposed cuts to the agency—it would see its budget slashed by $513 million annually, more than a fifth of its funding,” Mother Jones reported, again citing The Washington Post.

The satellite program helps cities foresee the threat of algal blooms and plan filtration efforts to protect drinking water, according to Mother Jones.

“In 2015, for example, Toledo was able to avoid a repeat of the 2014 crisis despite a near-record bloom that year, largely because of early warning,” Mother Jones reported.

A third program that could be cut in a Trump budget: the U.S. EPA's Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“The administration plans to cut the program's funding by 97 percent, from $300 million to $10 million,” Mother Jones reported, citing Oregon Live.

Why it might matter: The program helps Great Lakes states coordinate responses to algal threats and funds environmental projects that protect the lakes from phosphorus pollution.

Trump has framed budget cuts as part of his effort to reform Washington. CNN reported that “the White House has made clear it intends to use the document to usher in the radical political changes that powered Trump's upstart, anti-establishment campaign last year.”

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