House Interior Appropriations Letter

PDF Version: House Interior Appropriations Letter 

March 23, 2017

The Honorable Ken Calvert, Chairman
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
2007 Rayburn House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Betty McCollum, Ranking Minority Member
Subcommittee on Interior, Environment and Related Agencies
1016 Longworth House Office Building
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairman Calvert and Ranking Member McCollum:

The undersigned members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition request continued support for programs that are essential to maintaining and restoring clean water to the rivers and streams throughout the Chesapeake Bay region and to the Bay itself. Two-thirds of the 18 million people in this region get the water they drink directly from the rivers and streams that flow through the cities, towns and farms throughout our six state, 64,000 square mile watershed. Protecting and restoring clean water is essential for human health and for a robust regional economy.

The efforts to clean the Chesapeake began under President Reagan in 1983. In his 1984 State of the Union speech, President Reagan said, “Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it's common sense.”

To follow a common sense path to maintain healthy local water and restore Chesapeake Bay, which is critical for our regional economy, we request funding for the following programs in Fiscal Year 2018:

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Chesapeake Bay Program -- $73.0 million

We support level funding of $73.0 million for the base budget of the Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts. The majority of the program’s funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration work through programs such as the Small Watershed Grants, Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants, State Implementation Grants, and the Chesapeake Bay Regulatory and Accountability Program grants.

We strongly support the highly successful and popular Chesapeake Small Watershed Grants and the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants – $6 million each – that Congress appropriated in FY 2016. These are two well-run, competitive grant programs that have contributed significantly to water quality improvements throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These are the Bay Program’s only grants that go directly to on-the-ground restoration efforts by local governments and communities. Without specific Congressional direction, EPA has, in the past, reallocated this grant money for purposes other than local restoration. This is not the time to stop local implementation of restoration work. We strongly support the language in the FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act, where Congress protected these critical local grant programs: “The Committee recommends $73,000,000 for the Chesapeake Bay program. From within the amount provided, $6,000,000 is for nutrient and sediment removal grants and $6,000,000 is for small watershed grants to control polluted runoff from urban, suburban and agricultural lands.” We urge you to retain the same language in the FY 2018 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill, for both the overall Chesapeake Bay Program and for the local grant programs.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF) --$4.047 billion

This program is critical to any national initiative to provide a Federal Infrastructure Spending Plan and it provides the lifeblood for the 1,779 local governments throughout the Chesapeake region to secure their water infrastructure. The funding level for this Clean Water SRF has eroded over the years as the clean water needs of local communities have increased dramatically. The Choose Clean Water Coalition supports efforts in both the House and the Senate, and within the Administration, to triple the current funding for the Clean Water SRF – and this is what we are requesting. This will help to close the gap between federal infrastructure investment in clean water and the known need. This will also dramatically improve water quality and protect human health in our region and across the nation. These low interest loans are critical for clean water and for ratepayers in the Chesapeake region and nationwide. We urge you to support the $4.047 billion funding level that would provide $891 million in low interest loans to local governments in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia – triple the current level of funding. We also strongly support targeting 20 percent of the Clean Water SRF funds for green infrastructure and innovative projects including those to manage stormwater, which helps communities improve water quality while creating green space, mitigating flooding, and enhancing air quality. The Clean Water SRF allocates money to the states based on a set formula, which is then used for low interest loans to local governments for critical capital construction improvement projects to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution from wastewater treatment and stormwater facilities; nonpoint sources of pollution, such as farms and development; and other sources. In addition to the use of these funds on farms and for nonpoint source pollution, it provides assistance for other pollution reduction and prevention activities in rural areas, such as reforestation and forest protection and stream stabilization and restoration. The Clean Water SRF enables local governments in the Chesapeake watershed to take actions to keep their rivers and streams clean. As the list of clean water infrastructure needs in the Chesapeake region continues to expand, we request that Congress triple the funding of the Clean Water SRF from last year’s FY16 levels.

Department of the Interior

U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) -- Chesapeake Bay Studies -- $11.991 million

We support level funding from FY 2016 of $11.991 million for the USGS to provide the critical science necessary for restoration and protection efforts for fish, wildlife and the 18 million people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. USGS focuses on monitoring and assessing fisheries, waterfowl and the quality of their habitats, which provide economic benefits to the states involved in the Chesapeake restoration effort and represent the priorities of the Department of the Interior.

USGS activities are critical for the restoration of several freshwater fish species, including brook trout, an important recreational fishery. A related activity is identifying chemicals, and their sources, which lead to fish consumption advisories for humans. USGS also provides the expertise to restore and conserve coastal wetlands, critical habitat and food for the more than one million waterfowl that winter in the Chesapeake region. USGS helps to coordinate the collection and assessment of monitoring data collected by the states and USGS. These assessments will help the states focus on areas and types of practices, for more effective approaches toward water quality improvements.

The USGS is leading an effort to map areas where restoration and conservation efforts will contribute to multiple Chesapeake goals - benefiting people in the watershed as well as fish and wildlife. This mapping will help state and federal partners more effectively focus actions and utilize available resources.

National Park Service -- Chesapeake Regional Programs -- $3.0261 million

The National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office runs a number of small, but very important programs that focus on increasing public access and the use of ecological, cultural and historic resources of the Chesapeake region. Expanding access and public awareness fosters stewardship and protection efforts.

We are requesting level funding for these key programs administered by the National Park Service in the Chesapeake Bay watershed: Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail ($385,000); Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail ($150,600); support for coordinating these programs through the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office ($476,500); and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails ($2.014 million). In addition, as in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2016, we urge you to extend the authorization for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Trails program for two more years.

Department of the Interior/U.S. Department of Agriculture

National Park Service/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Bureau of Land Management/U.S. Forest Service - Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Landscape Planning Projects – Land and Water Conservation Fund - $30.519 million

We support continuation of the strategic use of funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund for the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Landscape Planning initiative. This effort targets conservation funds for priority landscapes throughout the country; the Rivers of the Chesapeake is one such priority area. The collaborative proposal focuses on the great rivers of the Chesapeake and would protect 8,000 acres in the Potomac, Rappahannock, James, Nanticoke and Susquehanna watersheds in Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The areas in the Chesapeake include nationally significant resources, such as migratory bird habitat, spawning areas for economically important fish and shellfish, significant forest resources and projects to enhance public access.

Thank you for your consideration of these very important requests to maintain funding for these programs which are critical to clean water throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Please contact Peter J. Marx at 410-905-2515 or peter@choosecleanwater.org with any questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

1000 Friends of Maryland
Alice Ferguson Foundation
Alliance for Sustainable Communities
Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay
American Rivers
Anacostia Watershed Society
Audubon Naturalist Society
Back Creek Conservancy
Blue Water Baltimore
Cacapon Institute
Capital Region Land Conservancy
Catskill Mountainkeeper
Cecil Land Use Association
Center for Progressive Reform
Chapman Forest Foundation
Chesapeake Legal Alliance
Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage
Chester River Association
Clean Water Action Coalition for Smarter Growth
Conservation Montgomery
Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania
Delaware Nature Society
Ducks Unlimited
Earth Force
Earth Forum of Howard County
Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation
Eastern Shore Land Conservancy
EcoLatinos
Elizabeth River Project
Elk Creeks Watershed Association
Environment America
Environment Maryland
Environment New York
Environment Virginia
Environmental Working Group
Envision Frederick County
Friends of Accotink Creek
Friends of Dyke Marsh
Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek
Friends of Quincy Run
Friends of Sligo Creek
Friends of the Middle River
Friends of the Nanticoke River
Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River
Friends of the Rappahannock
Goose Creek Association
Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake
Izaak Walton League of America
James River Association
Lackawanna River Conservation Association
Lancaster Farmland Trust
Little Falls Watershed Alliance
Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Lynnhaven River NOW
Maryland Conservation Council
Maryland League of Conservation Voters
Mattawoman Watershed Society
Mehoopany Creek Watershed Association
Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited
Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper
Montgomery Countryside Alliance
National Aquarium
National Parks Conservation Association
National Wildlife Federation
Nature Abounds
New York League of Conservation Voters
New York State Council of Trout Unlimited
Natural Resources Defense Council
Neighbors of the Northwest Branch
Otsego County Conservation Association
Otsego Land Trust
PennEnvironment
PennFuture
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Piedmont Environmental Council
Potomac Conservancy
Potomac Riverkeeper
Potomac Riverkeeper Network
Queen Anne’s Conservation Association
Rivanna Conservation Alliance
Rock Creek Conservancy
St. Mary's River Watershed Association
Sassafras River Association
Savage River Watershed Association
Severn River Association
Shenandoah Riverkeeper
Shenandoah Valley Network
Sidney Center Improvement Group
Sleepy Creek Watershed Association
South River Federation
Southern Environmental Law Center
SouthWings
Sparks-Glencoe Community Planning Council
Susquehanna Heritage
Trout Unlimited
Upper Potomac Riverkeeper
Upper Susquehanna Coalition
Virginia Conservation Network
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Waterkeepers Chesapeake
West/Rhode Riverkeeper
West Virginia Citizen Action Group
West Virginia Environmental Council
West Virginia Rivers Coalition
Wetlands Watch
Wicomico Environmental Trust