Bay Advocates Applaud Full Funding for Chesapeake Bay

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

Photo: Chesapeake Bay Program

In May 2017, the President signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2017, which designates $73 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program. This comes on the heels of the release of the President’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2018, which recommended a complete defunding and shutdown of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

For the past eight years, the Choose Clean Water Coalition, a nonprofit organization made up of over 225 local, state, and national groups from all six states in the Chesapeake watershed and the District of Columbia, has worked with members of Congress to help secure this essential funding for the Chesapeake Bay clean up. In early April, the Coalition met with members of Congress to discuss how important the funding is for not only the Chesapeake Bay, but local communities around the watershed.

 “The Coalition wants to thank our members of Congress who have been champions of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort and helped to secure this funding for the Bay,” said Chante Coleman, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “With this support, our members will be able to continue to implement on the ground restoration projects that reduce pollution in our rivers and streams and protect the water that we drink.”

 Two thirds of the $73 million that the Program receives goes directly to support state and local level projects in the watershed states. In 2016, Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania received more than $10 million each, funding projects that include planting trees, creating habitat, reducing pollution from agriculture, and increasing crab and oyster populations.

“Our progress in restoring the Chesapeake Bay results from the steadfast commitment of many important partners working together toward shared goals. The federal government needs to represent the strong and stable base on which the effort is built, and our commitment must not be allowed to waver,” said Senator Cardin. “Congress soundly rejected the recently proposed elimination of federal funding to the Chesapeake Bay Program and related efforts because nearly every elected official in the watershed, regardless of political party affiliation, knows and appreciates what the Bay provides us. Strong local economies. Flourishing wildlife populations. Recreational opportunities. Our regional identity. But let the recent threats remind us just how diligently we must all continue working together as partners to ensure that the federal government’s dedication to the Chesapeake Bay remains the bedrock of the restoration effort.”  

The Coalition is now focusing on fighting the proposed budget cuts for fiscal year 2018 and will continue to work with members of Congress to secure the funding necessary to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.     

Clean Water Advocates Rally for Chesapeake Bay

On April 5, the Choose Clean Water Coalition met with Members of Congress to discuss concerns surrounding funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. Specifically, the Coalition, a nonprofit organization made up of over 225 local, state, and national groups from all six states in the Chesapeake watershed and the District of Columbia, talked with their members and staff about the impact of eliminating $73 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program on local restoration efforts.

Last month, the President released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2018, which recommended that funding for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program be eliminated. The majority of this funding, over $45 million, is granted back to Bay watershed state and local communities to support local on the ground restoration efforts. Without this funding support, projects that nonprofits, municipalities, and states are implementing to improve their local communities will end.

Photo: Carolyn Millard

Photo: Carolyn Millard

“The proposed budget would leave already cash-strapped state and local governments, as well as community groups and nonprofits, holding the bag,” says Chris Miller, President of The Piedmont Environmental Council in Virginia. “The state and local governments would be left to tackle aging infrastructure like failing sewage treatment systems, and to provide the incentives needed to reduce pollution generated by homes, businesses and farms.”

Funding for the Chesapeake Bay has historically found support from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans and Democrats recognizing the importance of Bay funding for improving local communities, and their rivers and streams. Most recently, members of both the House and Senate have sent letters of support for funding the Chesapeake Bay Program to the White House and Congressional funding committees.

“President Trump has no idea what a major, collaborative effort it has taken to reverse the not-too-distant trend of dead zones and poor harvests in the Chesapeake Bay, which is a National Treasure” said Senator Ben Cardin. “Choose Clean Water Coalition members understand how absurd the president’s Budget Blueprint is and they have seen what a difference a healthy Chesapeake Bay has done to promote a healthy economy. Restoration cannot continue without a strong federal partner. Now, our challenge is to demonstrate to appropriators why it is in their best interest and the nation’s interest to continue funding the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program.”

Moving forward, the Coalition will work to continue to push back on the President’s proposed budget, and secure the essential funding that is necessary to return clean water to the Chesapeake Bay.                               

Maryland Passes Ban on Fracking

In March 2017, a number of successes came out of Maryland’s state legislature, including a ban on hydraulic fracturing. The ban to protect the precious Marcellus Shale formation, local waterways, and drinking water in the Western part of the state had overwhelming, bipartisan support and Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan, signed and passed the ban into law noting that, “Protecting our natural clean water supply and natural resources is critically important to Marylanders, and we simply cannot allow the door to open for fracking in our state”. Maryland and New York are the only two states that have banned fracking in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.   

The threat of natural gas development within the Bay watershed has been a long contested debate. For the last nine years, the Coalition’s Shale Workgroup has pushed back at the local, state, and regional level to champion precedent setting policies to address the impacts of shale gas drilling. The significance of this historic ban speaks volumes to the work of Coalition members, specifically in Western Maryland. Efforts on the ground in favor of Maryland’s fracking ban legislation was seen from 37 diverse Coalition members, including faith groups, sportsmen, and conservation non-profits. Strong support was vocalized through a series of sign-on letters addressed to Governor Hogan and six state legislators whose districts would be impacted by fracked natural gas.

Maryland’s ban on fracking is not just a huge victory for  one portion of the Chesapeake watershed, it will also protect  drinking water for tens of thousands of people and species of wildlife. This victory signifies the importance of collaboration and working together. Each member of the Choose Clean Water Coalition -no matter how big or small- plays a key role in protecting the Chesapeake. The ban serves as a Coalition win and demonstrates the power of our ability to provide capacity to our members and drive strategic action for the protection of our natural resources.  

Mariah Davis is the field manager for the Choose Clean Water Coalition.