On March 21, more than 100 members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition and the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed fought through a snowstorm to speak with their members of Congress about the importance of clean water. This was the 6th annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill for Choose Clean Water, a coalition of 239 nonprofit organizations focused on restoring and protecting clean water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Despite the snow, the Coalition met with more than 20 members of Congress to discuss federal threats, like funding cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program. Coalition members also had the pleasure of hearing from 10 different members of Congress at the Chesapeake Bay luncheon, including Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Congressman John Faso (R-NY), Congresman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD), Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA), Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Congressman Don McEachin (D-VA), Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA), Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA). The legislators spoke about life around the Chesapeake, where to find the best crab cakes, and of the future of clean water.
The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed simultaneously scheduled meetings with the entire congressional delegation that represents the Delaware watershed. Although the snowstorm disrupted several meetings, the tenor of those that did take place was overwhelmingly positive with congressional members pledging to champion the Delaware on Capitol Hill. The result of Coalition’s two days on the Hill was a clear message to Members: fund the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act and its associated grant program the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program (DRBRP), a non-regulatory approach led by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. On March 23, the program received $5 million in funding as part of the fiscal year 2018 Omnibus spending bill approved by Congress. The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed worked with Congress on the authorization of the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act in December 2016 that created the DRBRP, and through the newly funded program, money will finally begin flowing to local conservation projects throughout the region.
The result of months of collaboration and hard work paid off with the rejection by Congress of Trump’s fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which aimed to zero out the Chesapeake Bay Program. The spending bill that passed includes a fully funded Chesapeake Bay budget of $73 million and $5 million for the Delaware River. We owe a huge thank you to all of the members of Congress who voted in support of protecting the Chesapeake Bay and the Delaware River. The fight for clean water continues as the president’s proposed FY19 budget has only $7.3 million allocated for the Chesapeake Bay and nothing for the Delaware River.