What’s at Stake – Funding for Chesapeake Bay in Jeopardy
First, some good news. The Chesapeake Bay’s health is improving. Thirty years of effort is paying off with the clean-up showing signs of success. A recent report by the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program showed a decrease in pollution levels and a smaller “dead zone”, which means more oxygen for all of our favorite Bay critters. In particular, underwater grass beds – the home of blue crabs – are increasing. Investments made over the last couple of decades in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants, farms, cities and suburban homes and lawns are now demonstrating modest results. Despite this progress, an accurate term to describe the clean-up is fragile and efforts to monitor water quality, wildlife, and habitat have never been more important.
Now for the bad news. The new budget submitted by the Trump Administration completely eliminates funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program. The Program, currently funded at $73 million dollars, would cease to exist if this budget recommendation takes hold and certainly would not advance the still fragile clean-up effort.
The loss of funding would impact much more than federal efforts to protect the Bay. Due to the long-standing federal-state partnership to restore clean water to the Chesapeake, the six states throughout the watershed and the District of Columbia receive more than $46 million of the total funding. Maryland’s annual loss of funding would be over $9 million dollars, cutting projects and programs that reduce stormwater runoff, improve local rivers, and monitor habitat levels in the Bay (just to name a few). Pennsylvania would see the largest impact with a loss of almost $11 million dollars, the majority which helps support conservation practices on farms throughout the state. This all occurs at a time when Pennsylvania needs the most support to clean up the Susquehanna River, the largest source of fresh water to the Chesapeake Bay and, correspondingly, one of the largest contributors of pollution.
Funding cuts would also hurt non-profit organizations and local governments who are driving the restoration effort forward. Projects, like our work to create wildlife habitat and improve water quality in Baltimore City, would be stopped in its tracks. Each year, competitive grants totaling over $12 million are implemented across the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 2016 projects include brook trout habitat in Virginia, oyster restoration and water quality financing in Maryland, and working with the Plain Sect Amish community in Pennsylvania. These grants are also leveraged with state and local funding, which more than doubles the impact.
You can make a difference! We have great leadership in Congress and elected officials need to hear from you. The signs are good – Republicans and Democrats are coming together to make a commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. We need them to stay strong and committed throughout the long budget process.
So take 5 minutes, connect with your elected officials on social media, and ask them to be #BayStrong.