The Choose Clean Water Coalition held our annual Chesapeake Bay Day on Capitol Hill (aka Lobby Day) on March 21. The strategy of waiting until spring to hold our Lobby Day proved to be a poor choice - we had the biggest snow of the year in the DC area, and the Federal gov’t shut down. But luckily for us, Congress was still open - at least partially, and a surprisingly large and determined crew of Coalition Members came to Washington to lobby Congress. We still pulled off about 20 Congressional office meetings and we had 10 Members of Congress come by and speak to us at lunch. A lot of our lobbying was about the FY19 funding that begins on October 1, 2018.
And later that day we got the good news as to what the final FY18 appropriations were – and that Omnibus funding bill passed Congress and became law on March 23. The bill included many of the Coalition’s exact “asks” for the Chesapeake, and other good news –
- $73 million for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, which also includes:
- $6 million for the Chesapeake Small Watershed Grants Program
- $6 million for the Innovative Nutrient & Sediment Reduction Program
- $1.694 billion for Clean Water State Revolving Fund (& $1.163 billion for Drinking Water SRF)
- No cuts to Farm Bill conservation programs – the first time that has happened in a decade
- $2.02 million for Chesapeake Gateways & Trails Program (this also included “authorizing” the Program for FY19, which makes getting the next year’s appropriation a bit easier)
- The bill includes language requiring EPA to keep the Chesapeake Bay Program Office in Annapolis and to keep all of the Federal agencies working on this effort co-located in the same area.
- The final bill also stripped out the “Goodlatte amendment” that would have prevented EPA from enforcing the Bay TMDL.
- Land & Water Conservation Fund - $25 million increase - $400m to $425m – this includes $6 million for two acquisition projects under the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative – Grace Furnace in the George Washington and Jefferson Nat’l Forests (VA) and the Blackwater Nat’l Wildlife Refuge (MD).
- We’re still trying to determine the exact funding amounts for the U.S. Geological Survey Chesapeake Bay Studies – this funding comes from five different “mission areas” within USGS, and the total funding is determined by the agency.
- A similar situation exists for some of the National Park Service Chesapeake programs that are managed out of their Chesapeake Bay office – we are awaiting the final numbers.
To keep your scorecard up to date, FY18 is the budget in which the Trump Administration recommended zero funding for Bay restoration - so we gained $73 million in that fight. The FY19 Trump Budget calls for $7.3 million (a 90% cut) - so we are fighting to restore $65.7 million and will be working with Congress to do so over the next year. This really showed the power of our Coalition and our many diverse members. We have to continue this fight - and we will.
Peter Marx is a federal affairs contractor here at Choose Clean Water