BY GAIL GRUENWALD, DIRECTOR, TIP OF THE MITT WATERSHED COUNCIL
The Watershed Council is endowed with loyal, generous supporters.
Contributions from our members have made possible decades of water quality monitoring, education, policy initiatives, and advocacy on behalf of our waters.
At the same time, we have relied on the State of Michigan and the Federal government to fund our large-scale watershed management planning and implementation work and our restoration actions.
This work has been funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other federal agencies.
Many of the grants for watershed management projects were “pass-through” funds.
These are grants that the EPA passes through to the State of Michigan.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality then awards grants to worthy organizations through a competitive grant process. Most years, the
Watershed Council is working on at least two to three such projects.
As many of you are aware, this may come to an end in the coming months.
Proposed federal budget cuts include dramatic reductions in EPA funding for watershed management work, as well as eliminating funding of the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI).
The GLRI has received bipartisan support in Congress since its inception several years ago as a funding source for Great Lakes protection and restoration.
Northern Michigan has benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds to support important restoration projects.
The Watershed Council has completed several restoration projects including work on Tannery Creek, a new bridge over the Bear River, creation of a stormwater wetland at North Central Michigan College, and treatment of zebra and quagga mussels with Zequanox, among other things.
Several other Northern Michigan organizations have also completed extensive restoration projects with GLRI funds.
These potential funding cuts concern us.
Without these critical programs to provide support, it is unlikely that this work will continue in our region.
Not only do the funds make restoration of our lakes and streams possible, but they bring much needed economic stimulus to our area through contracts with excavating companies, engineering firms, county road commissions and others.
The Watershed Council will continue to seek private funds to support all of our work, but we will also need to identify new or significantly expanded funding sources to protect and restore our water resources through watershed management in the years to come.