Trump’s 97 Percent Cut for Great Lakes? That Was the Good News

By Jennifer Lu

About 90 civic leaders from the Great Lakes region rallied Wednesday on a snowy corner of Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., their voices barely audible above the 30 mph winds. They were there to express their concerns about a Trump administration proposal to reduce funding for Great Lakes improvement projects by 97 percent.  

The rally was barely over when the news began trickling in: The administration’s final budget, due to be released the next morning, wouldn’t just slash $290 million from the $300 million Great Lakes Restoration Initiative—it would cut the program entirely.  

Titled “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” Trump’s budget would make state and local governments responsible for regional environmental projects. That would leave the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to “focus on its highest national priorities,” the budget said.

“To suggest that our region is not of national significance is frankly an insult,” said Todd Ambs, director of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition and one of the speakers who stood in the cold. “It’s astonishing. The White House needs a geography lesson.” Read more


Top to bottom: A boat travels through an algae bloom on Lake Erie near Toledo, Ohio. A 2014 toxic bloom left 500,000 residents of Toledo without drinking water for three days. Signs displaying warnings about algae were posted along Lake Erie and residents were given bottled drinking water. Photos by Aurora Photos/Alamy Stock Photo (top) and Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo

Why Water, Why Now?

Jennifer Lu's report on the Trump administration proposal to eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is one of the first articles in InquireFirst’s debut project, which in the coming months will explore a question that directly affects every American’s life: Will the United States continue to be a country where people can turn on the tap and assume the water that comes out is safe and affordable? Or do we face a future of ruptured water mains, boil water alerts and lead contamination scares?

The nation’s pipes and treatment plants have been neglected so long that one estimate puts the repair bill at $1 trillion over the next 20 years. Meanwhile, federal funding for water infrastructure has shrunk 74 percent in real dollars since 1977, leaving cities and towns with skyrocketing bills.

How can we repair and upgrade our deteriorating pipes and treatment plants without making water unaffordable to some? How can we make sure our water remains safe to drink, given the Trump Administration’s promise to cut back on regulations and shrink the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency?

Our stories will help you answer these questions and give you the information you need to take action. Please share them with your friends, family and social media connections. And please consider funding our work with your tax-deductible donations.

InquireFirst Journalism Symposiums

Galia Rodriguez, daughter of reporter Armando Rodriguez who was murdered in Ciudad Juarez, takes part in a 2010 anniversary memorial in a park in Ciudad Juarez. Suspected drug gang members shot and killed Rodriguez, a crime reporter who worked for El Diario de Ciudad Juarez. Photo by Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo

Executive Director Lynne Walker to travel to México, Guatemala and Honduras to lead journalism symposiums

InquireFirst Executive Director S. Lynne Walker will travel to México, Guatemala and Honduras to instruct professional workshops for investigative journalists.

Walker will instruct a two-day Investigative Journalism workshop in May in Ciudad Juarez, México. Print, digital, radio and television reporters and editors will attend the training sessions in the U.S.-México border city.  

A key focus of the workshop will be journalist safety.  According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), México is one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists.  In March 2017 alone, Mexican journalists Miroslava Breach Velducea of Chihuahua and Cecilio Pineda Birto of Guerrero were shot to death in direct retaliation for their work. CPJ is investigating the motives behind the March 19 murder in Veracruz of Ricardo Monlui Cabrera. A fourth journalist, Armando Arrieta, survived a March 29 shooting in Veracruz, but was severely injured. In April 2017, Baja California Sur crime reporter Maximinio Rodriguez was shot and killed in the city of La Paz.

During her trip to Ciudad Juarez, Walker will meet with the directors of media organizations to discuss the risks they face and ways to conduct investigative coverage without putting reporters’ lives in danger.

Walker will also have conversations with journalism students at two universities in Ciudad Juarez about the fundamentals of fact-based reporting as well as answering their questions about daily reporting. The workshops and discussions are being organized by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Consulate in Ciudad Juarez.

In June, Walker will spend two weeks working with journalists in Honduras and Guatemala on investigative reporting techniques.  The workshops are being organized by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in Honduras and the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala.

In the Honduran city of Tela on the north Caribbean coast, Walker will lead a two-day workshop on accurate sourcing and on producing thorough, balanced investigative journalism that results in greater transparency and good governance.  Walker will also conduct workshops in San Pedro Sula and the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.

In Guatemala City, mid-career journalists will attend a two-day workshop led by Walker, who will meet separately with university students studying journalism, political science and law.


Jennifer Lu awarded CASW
grant for data reporting

Jennifer Lu

WASHINGTON, D.C. — InquireFirst intern Jennifer Lu has been awarded a $5,000 special reporting grant by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing (CASW) Taylor/Blakeslee Project Fellowship Program to report on the urgent problems created by the nation’s aging drinking water infrastructure.

Lu is completing her final semester of the University of Missouri master’s program in journalism, where she is focusing on investigative and data journalism. In awarding Lu the fellowship, the judges noted the urgency and importance of investigative science reporting on the drinking water contamination crises now facing many cities.  Read more

InquireFirst reporter Elizabeth Douglass, left, and Nick Janzen, energy & environment reporter with Indiana Public Radio, center, interview Bill Carroll, director of operations at Ace Hardware in Lake Station, Indiana. Photo by John Nelson

Elizabeth Douglass named 2017 Alicia Patterson Fellow

WASHINGTON, D.C. — InquireFirst reporter Elizabeth Douglass has been awarded a $40,000 Alicia Patterson fellowship to support her reporting on the nation’s deteriorating drinking water infrastructure. She has also received a $9,000 grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to help cover the expenses of her work, including travel and public records requests. Nearly 80 journalists working in more than a half-dozen countries applied for Alicia Patterson fellowships. Read more