Proposed U.S. budget cuts could trickle into St. Lawrence River

Alycia Douglass

Published on March 9, 2017
The Trump administration's proposed 97 percent budget cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative could have devastating effects on the St. Lawrence River. (Nick Seebruch/TC Media)

CORNWALL, Ontario - The Great Lakes are a source of drinking water for roughly 40 million people in both Canada and the U.S. Recently, the Trump administration announced a possible 97 percent budget cut to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. If enacted, the St. Lawrence River at Cornwall and Akwesasne could also feel the crunch.

The St. Lawrence River Institute’s executive director, Dr. Jeff Ridal says that what happens on the American side has the potential to greatly influence the Canadian side.

“What’s important to remember is that this wouldn’t only impact the American side,” said Ridal. “Invasive species like Asian Carp aren’t going to see a border.”

While the proposed cuts are still in the preliminary stages, the issue raises concerns of shared resources and their bearing on the health of the river. Currently, U.S. conservation authorities are in the process of preparing a case for the effectiveness of their initiative.

In addition to restoring wildlife habitat, the initiative also helps tackle invasive species and reduce the occurrence of algal blooms.

“The initiative is there to help accelerate measures to protect Great Lakes,” said Ridal. “Recently, substantial money has gone to cleaning up the Massena area of concern.”

Ridal says that regardless of what comes to pass, the relationships between conservation authorities and landowners are vital to protecting the Great Lakes.

“Each conservation authority has a different set of tools,” said Ridal. “They need to continue working with stakeholders to determine best practises for agricultural action and protecting the environment.”

While the environment is a primary concern where the potential budget cuts are concerned, Ridal says that the issues are often bigger.

“It concerns the environment, but it’s also about economy,” said Ridal. “All of which can benefit our Great Lakes. The issue is definitely broader than just the environment.”