Senate Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

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March 4, 2019

 

The Honorable Jerry Moran, Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Room S-128, Capitol

U.S Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

The Honorable Jeanne Shaheen, Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Room S-128, Capitol

U.S Senate

Washington, D.C. 20510

 

Dear Chairman Moran and Ranking Member Shaheen:

The undersigned members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition request continued support for programs that are essential to maintaining a healthy and vibrant Chesapeake Bay and a strong regional economy that is dependent on the Bay’s resources. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has a strong and long term presence in the Chesapeake Bay area, and its Chesapeake Bay Office coordinates their efforts with other federal agencies, state and local partners and users of the resource.

The programs that are run and/or coordinated by NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) are critical for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem and for its users and residents. These programs provide the science and management assistance necessary for those whose livelihood is to ply the Bay’s waters for fish, crabs and oysters and to the hundreds of thousands of people who fish recreationally in the Bay every year and to the millions who boat, kayak, and/or view wildlife in the region.

NCBO is also critical for others, from students learning about science with hands-on experiences to local governments and residents along the shore to have the latest information to prepare for coastal flooding and hurricane emergencies.

Utilizing sound science in the management of Chesapeake Bay resources is critical for our regional economy. We request the following funding levels in Fiscal Year 2020:

Department of Commerce

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - National Marine Fisheries Service – Habitat Conservation and Restoration – Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) - $9.7 million

 

Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) - $9.7 million

The NCBO was established by Congress in 1992 to provide resources, technical assistance and coordination through its two branches: the Ecosystem Science and Synthesis Program, which focuses on applied research and monitoring in fisheries and aquatic habitats; synthesis, and analysis to describe and predict Bay ecosystem processes; and technical assistance to Chesapeake Bay decision makers.

 The second branch is Environmental Literacy and Partnerships Program, which focuses on the development of K-12 and higher education environmental science education programs; strategic partnerships with the Chesapeake Bay Program and other government, university, and nonprofit partners; and delivering NOAA products, services, and programs to targeted audiences.

The NCBO’s programs play a key role in implementing the voluntary Chesapeake Bay Agreement among the states and is critical to ensuring that commitments are met to:

·       restore native oyster habitat and populations in 10 tributaries by the year 2025;

·       ensure students graduate with the knowledge and skills to protect and restore their local watershed;

·       sustain a healthy blue crab and striped bass (rockfish) population;

·       maintain a coordinated watershed-wide monitoring and research program; and

·       adapt to climate change, including sea level rise and flooding.

The specific breakdown of our request for $9.7 million for the NCBO is as follows:

Oyster Restoration - $4 million

The Chesapeake Bay oyster population is less than 1 percent of historic levels and the ecosystem functions associated with oyster reefs, including fish habitat and nitrogen removal, are similarly diminished. NCBO continues to restore entire tributaries with self-sustaining oyster populations and to measure the resulting ecosystem benefits. NCBO works with federal, state and private partners to plan and implement this tributary-scale restoration in both Maryland and Virginia.

 

Recent studies by Morgan State University found that the economic multipliers associated with commercial and recreational fishing in three restored tributaries of the Choptank River are currently valued at $13 million annually for newly restored reefs and $26 million annually once the restored reefs are allowed to mature. In addition, research conducted in one of these tributaries, Harris Creek, by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science found the reefs there are removing nitrogen and phosphorous from the water, providing a service valued at over $3 million annually. Preliminary research by NOAA has also found correlations between clearer water and increased submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) growth in areas where large-scale restoration has occurred when compared to similar unrestored areas. Protecting the existing restoration sites will allow these benefits to accrue and new restoration will enhance these benefits in more tributaries.

 

Funding for oyster restoration in the Chesapeake was also done through the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, but they have not received funding in a number of years. Funding for this key program has eroded sharply since FY2010, and without Army Corps funds, NOAA is the only Federal agency left to continue this key restoration program.

 

Environmental Education and Literacy - $3.5 million

NCBO encourages and supports efforts in K-12 and higher education to develop and implement comprehensive environmental literacy programs. NCBO runs the nationally recognized Bay Watershed Education and Training Program (B-WET) - a competitive grant program for hands-on watershed education for students and teacher training to foster stewardship of the Chesapeake Bay. B-WETs funding has steadily eroded since 2010 and should be restored to at least that level. This $3.5 million would be a part of the larger national B-WET funding.

 

Fisheries Science - $1 million

Chesapeake fisheries contribute significantly to the economy and culture of the region.  In 2018 Maryland harvested just over 33 million pounds of blue crab with a dockside value of more than $53.7 million. Striped bass (rockfish) remain the most popular commercial and recreational finfish in the Bay, generating roughly $500 million in economic activity related to fishing expenditures, travel, lodging, and so on each year.  NCBO works with top academic institutions to provide science used to sustainably manage commercially and recreationally valuable species.  These efforts have been hampered by slowly eroding budgets, leaving NCBO without a single fishery biologist on staff, and this at a time when climate change is altering ecosystem conditions in ways that may impact commercial and recreational species and their prey in unknown ways.

 

Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) – $1 million

Weather and water conditions on the Chesapeake Bay are constantly changing.  It is imperative that monitoring systems are in place to provide high quality data to understand, forecast, and develop decision support applications that aid maritime commerce, safety, and fishing activities.  CBIBS is maintained by NCBO and relays near real time weather and water information to the National Weather Service, boaters, pilots, and researchers. This is the only system monitoring wind and waves together in the mainstem of the Bay.  In addition, CBIBS plays a crucial role monitoring key aspects of the Bay’s health. Data from the buoys are used to track sediment plumes spilling into the Bay following storms, measure oxygen levels important to fish throughout the year and to forecast the distribution and severity of dangerous bacteria – information that is critical to successful aquaculture operations.

 

Climate and Resiliency - $200,000

NOAA and the U.S. Geological Survey lead implementing the climate resiliency goal for the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office maintains a full-time climate resiliency specialist to coordinate all climate activities across the Chesapeake Bay Program, including activities such as monitoring for the impacts of sea level rise, coastal flooding, increased storm intensity and their effects on living resources and coastal communities.

 

Thank you for your consideration of these very important requests to maintain funding for programs that are critical to the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its natural resources. Please contact Peter J. Marx at 410-905-2515 or Peter@ChooseCleanWater.org with any questions or concerns.

 

Sincerely,

 


Action Together Northeastern Pennsylvania

Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay

Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley

American Chestnut Land Trust

American Rivers

Anacostia Riverkeeper

Anacostia Watershed Society

Annapolis Green

Arundel Rivers Federation

Audubon Maryland/DC

Audubon Naturalist Society

Audubon Society of Northern Virginia

Back Creek Conservancy

Baltimore Tree Trust

Blue Heron Environmental Network

Blue Ridge Watershed Coalition

Blue Water Baltimore

Butternut Valley Alliance

Cacapon Institute

Capital Region Land Conservancy

Catskill Mountainkeeper

Center for Progressive Reform

Chapman Forest Foundation

Chemung River Friends

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Chesapeake Climate Action Network

Chesapeake Conservancy

Chesapeake Legal Alliance

Chesapeake Wildlife Heritage

Clean Fairfax

Clean Water Action

Clean Water Linganore 

Coalition for Smarter Growth

Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania

DC Environmental Network

Delaware Nature Society

Ducks Unlimited

Earth Conservation Corps

Earthworks

Earth Forum of Howard County

Eastern Pennsylvania Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation

Eastern Shore Land Conservancy

Elizabeth River Project

Environmental Integrity Project

Environmental Justice Center of Chestnut Hill United Church

Environmental Working Group

Experience Learning

Float Fishermen of Virginia

Friends of Accotink Creek

Friends of Frederick County

Friends of Herring Run Park

Friends of Little Hunting Creek

Friends of Lower Beaverdam Creek

Friends of Quincy Run

Friends of Sligo Creek

Friends of the Bohemia

Friends of the Cacapon River

Friends of Dyke Marsh

Friends of the Middle River

Friends of the Nanticoke River

Friends of the North Fork of the Shenandoah River

Friends of the Rappahannock

Friends of St. Clements Bay

Goose Creek Association

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake

James River Association

Lackawanna River Conservation Association

Lancaster Farmland Trust

Little Falls Watershed Alliance

Lower Shore Land Trust

Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Lynnhaven River NOW

Maryland Conservation Council

Maryland Environmental Health Network

Maryland League of Conservation Voters

Maryland Native Plant Society

Maryland Nonprofits

Maryland Science Center

Mattawoman Watershed Society

Mid-Atlantic Council Trout Unlimited

Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper

Muddy Branch Alliance

National Aquarium

National Parks Conservation Association

National Wildlife Federation

Natural Resources Defense Council

Nature Abounds

NeighborSpace of Baltimore County

New York League of Conservation Voters

New York State Council of Trout Unlimited

Neighbors of the Northwest Branch

Otsego County Conservation Association

Otsego Land Trust

Partnership for Smarter Growth

Patapsco Heritage Greenway

Patuxent Tidewater Land Trust 

PennEnvironment

PennFuture

Pennsylvania Council of Churches

Pennsylvania Council of Trout Unlimited

Piedmont Environmental Council

Potomac Conservancy

Potomac Riverkeeper

Potomac Riverkeeper Network

Potomac Valley Audubon Society

Queen Anne’s Conservation Association

Preservation Maryland

Rachel Carson Council

Restore America’s Estuaries

Rappahannock League for Environmental Protection

Richmond Audubon Society

Rivanna Conservation Alliance

Rock Creek Conservancy       

St. Mary's River Watershed Association

Savage River Watershed Association

Severn River Association

Shenandoah Riverkeeper Shenandoah Valley Network

ShoreRivers

Sidney Center Improvement Group

Sierra Club – Maryland Chapter

Sleepy Creek Watershed Association

Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project

Southern Maryland Audubon Society

SouthWings

Susquehanna Heritage

Talbot Preservation Alliance

The Downstream Project

Transition Howard County

Trash Free Maryland

Trout Unlimited

Upper Potomac Riverkeeper 

Upper Susquehanna Coalition

Virginia Association of Biological Farming

Virginia Conservation Network

Virginia League of Conservation Voters

Warm Springs Watershed Association

Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Inc.

Waterkeepers Chesapeake

West Virginia Citizen Action Group

West Virginia Environmental Council

West Virginia Highlands Conservancy

West Virginia Rivers Coalition

Wetlands Watch

Wicomico Environmental Trust