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Issues of the Environment: Michigan Sea Grant Program Thriving Amid Budget Discourse

Aug 9, 2017

Michigan Sea Grant Logo
Credit Courtesy Photo / miseagrant.umich.edu

Back in March, the Trump Administration issued its budget recommendations that included a more 30% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency.  As part of the funding reductions, the Sea Grant program faced potential elimination.  As WEMU’s David Fair found out, the director of the Michigan Sea Grant Program has maintained faith the work will continue with financial support. For the latest, listen to this week’s “Issues of the Environment” conversation with Dr. James Diana


Overview

   *   In March of 2017, as part of $2.6 billion in cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, the fledgling President Trump administration proposed to nearly eliminate the Michigan Sea Grant Program AND the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.  The budgetary cuts were billed as a way to pay for increased military spending.  The initial proposal called for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to be cut from $300 million a year to about $10 million.  If that were to occur, it would decimate a program that has helped pay to restore wetlands and improve water quality across the upper Midwest.

   *   The proposed EPA budget cuts kill $250 million in National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) coastal and marine research and education grants.  The NOAA cuts eliminate the national Sea Grant program.  The Michigan Sea Grant at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan received $1.8 million from NOAA in 2016.  Universities provide funding for Sea Grant to match what NOAA contrubutes.  Among other projects, it helps maintain a database of current-related Great Lakes drownings.  It has funded $66 million in research, outreach, and education since 1969.

   *   According to the Michigan Sea Grant, the program directly resulted in $3.7 million in economic benefits to the state in 2015.  Nationwide, the Sea Grant program was funded at $67.3 million in 2015 and delivered an economic return of $575 million, according to its 2016 report.

   *   From Jim in July 2017: "After weathering the first round of federal budget challenges in the spring (May 2017), the Sea Grant network's 2018 budget is now under congressional review.  The next version of the 2018 budget will be formally announced in late summer, and early reports indicate that Sea Grant's funding may be fully restored."  In Michigan, continued funding of the Sea Grant program has strong, bipartisan support.

   *   Director for Michigan Sea Grant, Dr. Diana is involved in leading the statewide program in its research, education, and outreach efforts on critical Great Lakes issues, such as sustainable coastal development, fisheries, and other issues.  He says the program "fills in gaps" and does "the work that isn't being done by other organizations, like the state DNR, USGS or NOAA."  After 38 years, he is retiring from U of M this year.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at 734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu