Great Lakes Grand Prix

Crowds filled the Washington Park beach Michigan City for the Great Lakes Grand Prix in 2016. A study found $9.6 million was contributed to LaPorte County's economy by non-local visitors during the three days of race-related activities that started August 5.

Kale Wilk, The Times

INDIANAPOLIS — The U.S. senators representing Indiana and Illinois are urging President Donald Trump's budget director to maintain funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative in the Republican's next federal spending plan.

Shortly after taking office, Trump proposed eliminating the $300 million annual program that helps clean up pollution in the Great Lakes, restores fish habitat and prevents Asian Carp and other invasive species from entering the lakes.

Notwithstanding the president's opposition, the Republican-controlled Congress funded the initiative through Sept. 2018, and authorized it to continue operating through Sept. 2021. 

Going forward, U.S. Sens. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; and Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., believe Trump should embrace the program and explicitly include it in his 2019 federal budget.

The senators explain in a letter to Mick Mulvaney, director of Trump's Office of Management and Budget, that the Great Lakes are a national treasure that provide drinking water to 40 million people and are responsible for $10 billion in tourism spending each year.

"The momentum and partnerships of the GLRI program, which are helping to protect and restore the Great Lakes, must be maintained," they write. "Cutting spending on the Great Lakes won't save money, it will cost the nation more."

The letter also was signed by senators representing Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Trump is due to present his recommended spending plan to Congress by Feb. 5.

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Dan is Statehouse Bureau Chief for The Times. Since 2009, he's reported on Indiana government and politics — and how both impact the Region — from the state capital in Indianapolis. He originally is from Orland Park, Ill.