The Great Lakes began to form around 14,000 years ago. Large retreating ice sheets eroded the land, and when they melted, the giant basins they created filled with water. Together, the five lakes hold nearly one-fifth of the earth’s surface freshwater. They’re home to 3500 species of plants and animals, including 170 species of fish. Not to mention the drinking water for about 35 million people, in eight states plus Canada. They have been a major highway for transportation, trade and migration. And more than 1.5 million jobs are directly connected to the lakes.

But the Trump administration views the health of the Great Lakes as a local issue. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and budget director Mick Mulvaney squared off at a budget hearing a couple months ago on the topic. You can watch the exchange here:

Stabenow was responding to President Trump’s proposal to zero out $300 million in annual funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program that has helped fund a variety of research and projects that keep the Lakes healthy and accessible to people.

But Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee defied the administration and restored full funding for the GLRI in the 2018 appropriations billThis is far from a done deal, though, and changes may still come, before the final budget is sent to the President.

LISTEN: Trump Says Great Lakes a Local Issue. Congress Disagrees.

In the latest episode of our podcast Trump on Earth, we’re looking at the fate of the Great Lakes with two people who follow the region closely. Tom Henry is the environment reporter for the Toledo Blade. And Dave Rosenthal is the managing editor of the public radio collaborative Great Lakes Today.  His team of reporters has been working on a series called Trouble Waters, examining the impact of the Trump administration proposed budget cuts would have on the region. 

This map shows the symbolic locations for all Great Lake Restoration Initiative Projects since 2010.