U.S. senators propose grant program to help restore Chesapeake Bay habitats

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, is the proposal’s lead sponsor. Joining him as co-sponsors are: Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, plus West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

"I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill, and I look forward to working together to secure its passage and provide the Bay with this boost in support,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Environmental groups said the program could help support a goal to restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by 2025.

“Healthy habitats, like forests and wetlands, are essential to restoring clean water across the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, in a statement. “Not only does habitat restoration and protection provide food and shelter to fish and wildlife, but it also reduces flooding and keeps pollution from entering our local waterways.”

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Coalition Statement on the Final Bay Cleanup Plans

Statement from Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, on the Final Watershed Implementation Plans

(Oxon Hill, Maryland) – Today marks the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, where leaders from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, New York and the District of Columbia will meet to discuss the state of the bay restoration effort. This year’s meeting is particularly crucial, as the seven jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed have just released their final plans for restoring and protecting their local rivers and streams.

The Choose Clean Water Coalition, an organization made up of more than 240 nonprofit organizations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, has been tracking the development of the cleanup plans for the past nine years and has been pushing for strong and ambitious plans to address both local water pollution and its downstream impact to the Chesapeake Bay. While some jurisdictions’ final plans lay out a strong path forward, many are lacking in outlining specific actions and funding sources for their proposed work.

In response, the Choose Clean Water Coalition is releasing this statement from Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

“For the last nine years, the Coalition and our more than 240 member organizations across the watershed have been working with the seven bay jurisdictions to develop ambitious but achievable goals and cleanup plans,” said Reilly. “All of this work has brought us to this moment, where we are seeing great progress towards a clean bay, but the shortfalls we’re hearing about today puts that vision just beyond our grasp”.

“While Pennsylvania’s plan does lay out projects and programs to reduce pollution, it falls short of reaching their goals and does not address the more than $320 million funding gap for the work currently outlined in their plan.” said Reilly. “As we have heard in recent weeks, officials in Pennsylvania do not think the state receives the same economic benefits that states like Maryland and Virginia do from participating in the cleanup,” said Reilly. “However, these officials are ignoring the thousands of miles of rivers and streams that residents of the Susquehanna watershed use for fishing, boating, kayaking, swimming and drinking water; all of which generate economic benefits and require clean water.”

“While Maryland’s plan outlines many great things they are currently doing, we are concerned that the plan is not thinking about the future, and is missing critical components especially as it relates to accounting for population growth and climate change,” said Reilly. “There is little information on how the state will incorporate these important factors into their plan, which has become increasingly important as we face more frequent severe weather events.”

“We commend Virginia for releasing a cleanup plan that is both robust and ambitious, however the Commonwealth currently lacks funding for all of these programs and improvements,” said Reilly. “We look forward to working with our members in Virginia to push forward consistent funding sources that will provide increased capacity for stormwater, agricultural and wastewater projects that will reduce pollution across the Commonwealth.”

“The Choose Clean Water Coalition expects that, as the lead of the restoration effort, the Environmental Protection Agency will work with Pennsylvania to develop a strong final plan that meets its water quality goals and will hold all the jurisdictions accountable to their commitments.”

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Climate Change, Conowingo Prompt Increased Ask for Bay

Increased Pressure on Bay Prompts Request for More Funding
More federal funding required to address increased pollution from climate change and
the Conowingo dam

(Washington, DC) – Today, more than 100 members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition met with their members of Congress to discuss increased support for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. The Coalition, made up of more than 230 nonprofit organizations across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, is requesting that Congress increase funding for the Chesapeake Bay, specifically $90 million for the Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program, up from $73 million.

Over the past two years, both of the president’s proposed budgets have called for a reduction or elimination of funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program. Both times, the Coalition, in partnership with members of the Chesapeake watershed delegation in Congress, have worked to successfully restore funding, as it results in millions of dollars in support for projects that are improving communities and protecting local waterways in every state in the region and the District of Columbia.

“For the past two years, our Coalition has focused on restoring the critical $73 million in funding for the Chesapeake, which was eliminated in the president’s budget for 2018 and cut by 90 percent in 2019,” said Chanté Coleman, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. “With the leadership of our strong Chesapeake congressional delegation, we have successfully protected this funding, but now we have to focus on what the Chesapeake cleanup needs to get over the finish line knowing that we face new and growing challenges.”

When the Chesapeake Bay Blueprint was created in 2010, it was estimated that the Conowingo Dam would trap pollution through 2025. However, last year, new research determined that the reservoir behind the dam was actually full, and as a result more pollution was entering the Chesapeake Bay than had been originially accounted for. Now it is estimated that the Chesapeake Bay cleanup will need to reduce an additional 6 million pounds of nitrogen every year to mitigate water quality impacts from Conowingo. Also, the Chesapeake Bay region saw record amounts of rainfall this past year, resulting in increased flooding and runoff into local streams. These major rainfall events are only expected to increase with climate change, which will require on-the-ground pollution and flood reducing projects to adapt to new pressures.

“This is a critical investment in clean water, targeted directly at improving water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay. The majority of the Chesapeake Bay Program budget goes directly toward matching public and private investments in reducing pollution. The Bay Program is the glue that holds the state/federal partnership together. And it’s working. Over time, the dead zone is getting smaller, Bay grasses are increasing, and local economies are improving. But the Bay is far from saved,” said Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker. “State and federal efforts must be accelerated. This additional funding is critical to finishing the job.”

In addition to increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Coalition is also asking congress for a 50 percent increase in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails Program and to fully fund the 2018 Farm Bill’s conservation programs to ensure responsible farms in the Chesapeake region remain economically viable.  The Coalition is also requesting that Congress not ignore clean water issues when they put together a Federal Infrastructure Spending Package. The Coalition recommends tripling the funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to $5 billion to be included in such an Infrastructure Package. This Fund provides low interest loans for sewage treatment and stormwater control upgrades and retrofits for local governments and ratepayers in every state.
                                   

CHESAPEAKE BAY PROGRAM GRANTS – BY STATE (FY2018)

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 The Choose Clean Water Coalition, an organization that harnesses the collective power of more than 230 local, state, regional and national groups to advocate for clean rivers and streams in all communities in the Chesapeake region.

 

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