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Trump's proposed budget could critically undermine efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay

Trump’s proposed budget could critically undermine efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay (WBFF)

BALTIMORE (WBFF) – As President Donald Trump is announcing his $1.15 trillion budget on Thursday, it became instantly clear that military spending would be a top priority while funds for some foreign aid efforts and a number of domestic programs would drop.

Among those programs that the President plans to slash funding for is the local Chesapeake Bay Program, a partnership amongst D.C. and six states in the area that have worked to reduce pollution in the water since the first Bay Agreement in 1983 with the Environmental Protection Agency. It’s a classic example of multi-level cooperation in which the EPA offers additional federal funding and expertise while the state and local governments are ultimately held responsible for clearing up the Bay in their areas.

Under President Obama, efforts by the Chesapeake Bay Program were accelerated under an executive order to achieve pollution reduction targets by 2025. Each jurisdiction developed their own plans to meet those reduction standards by the deadline and two-year milestones were publicly reported on to mark progress. The watershed is a shared network of hundreds of thousands of rivers and streams, which the CBF asserts are key sources of food, recreation, drinking water for more than 13 million people, tourism, and the fishing industry.

The CBF estimates that the Chesapeake Bay’s economic worth is valued at over $1 trillion.

“The Chesapeake Bay restoration effort is not only about saving an iconic estuary, it is about protecting the water that residents depend on for life,” a statement reads.

According to the CBF, “The result has been an accelerated recovery with water clarity and underwater grasses increasing, and the dead zone decreasing. “

Under new budget proposals, leaders are concerned there could be a setback. Participation by the EPA, for one, would essentially be severely eliminated. About $59 million of the $73 million in EPA funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in the FY 2016 budget was divvied out among state and local governments, non-profits and community organizations each working to reduce pollution in the Bay.

A portion of Trump’s proposed budget which would apply to FY2018 reads:

  • "Eliminates funding for specific regional efforts such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, the Chesapeake Bay, and other geographic programs. These geographic program eliminations are $427 million lower than the 2017 annualized CR levels. The Budget returns the responsibility for funding local environmental efforts and programs to State and local entities, allowing EPA to focus on its highest national priorities."
“This just makes no sense. We are in disbelief. The EPA’s role in this cleanup is nothing less than fundamental. It’s not just important, it is critical,” says CBF President William C. Baker.

He adds, “Eliminating the EPA Bay Program will slam the door on the Bay’s nascent recovery, a recovery which is still very fragile…. “There is the very real chance that if this budget were implemented, the Bay will revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shell fish, and water borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health. Compare that to its current trajectory – a Bay teaming with healthy fish oysters and crabs; a Bay safe for children to swim in; a national model of a federal/state partnership heralded worldwide.”

Meanwhile Maryland Senator Ben Cardin urged, “Congress must quickly reject the president’s budget before the absurdity of his proposed cuts —including outright elimination of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program—causes ripples of uncertainty and fear across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed economy.”

Cardin says that Trump says he wants to strengthen the economy and boost job creation while cutting “critical” federal investments that have the best interests of the Chesapeake Bay states at heart.

Cardin urges, “The president needs to understand that a healthy Bay means a healthy economy and this cannot be accomplished without a strong federal partner. Less pollution means more oysters and crabs, healthier farmland, more boats and tourism on the water, and more jobs. The drastic cuts… will quickly cost the American people as we sacrifice clean air and clean water, public health and our national water infrastructure.”

"The President's proposed budget would mean an end to a coordinated Chesapeake Bay restoration effort," said Hilary Harp Falk, Mid-Atlantic regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation and co-chair of the Choose Clean Water Coalition. "With no federal funding for the Chesapeake, projects that are reducing flooding, improving communities, bringing back fish and wildlife, and cleaning drinking water will come to a halt."

"Support from the Bay Program is essential to continuing to reduce pollution in our local rivers and streams." said Chante Coleman, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which is made up of 226 organizations working to protect local waterways. "With such a drastic cut in funding, some of the most basic needs that people and wildlife depend on, like clean drinking water, will be threatened."

The CBF released examples of types of restoration efforts that would be eliminated with the reduction of federal funding funneled to state and local governments through the EPA. The list appears below.

1) Restore oyster reefs – For instance, one grant of $114,850 to the Oyster Recovery Partnership helps restore 20 acres of oyster reefs in the Tred Avon River in Talbot County.

2) Protect oyster beds– A grant of $152,074 helps the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy to prevent silt from running off nearby farms and homes and damaging oyster beds in Harris Creek, Broad Creek and the Tred Avon River in Talbot County.

3) Help create habitat for animals – Ducks Unlimited received $199,830 to protect 300 acres of black duck habitat on the Maryland and Virginia Eastern Shore.

4) Reduce polluted runoff – Millions in grants are passed on to local governments, local community groups and others to build “green infrastructure” projects that slow down and soak up polluted runoff. A few examples in Maryland include: the Spa Creek Conservancy received $192,518 to reduce polluted runoff coming out of the Southwoods community in Annapolis; Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake received $159,301 to reduce runoff at 15 congregations in Baltimore City and Baltimore County; Salisbury City received $75,000 to reduce this pollution downtown; the Low Impact Development Center received $609,454 to retrofit 13 church parking lots and grounds in Prince George’s County. Baltimore Tree Trust in Baltimore City received $189,917 to plant trees in the city; Carroll County government received $150,000 to improve the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum; The Anne Arundel County Watershed Stewards Academy, Inc received $199,405 to educate 75 congregants to help create ‘green ministries’ at their places of worship.

5) Reduce pollution entering local creeks from farms - For instance, grants help pay livestock farmers for water troughs, fencing to keep animals out of streams, and other expenses connected to raising livestock on pasture. Orcino Farms in Washington County and Open Book Farm in Frederick County are two local farms currently receiving those grants. The Nature Conservancy also received $195,952 to reduce sediment runoff from farms in Delmarva by 791 tons a year, nitrogen pollution by 105,250 pounds, and phosphorus 26,000 pounds.

6) Create jobs in the seafood industry – For instance, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources received $200,000 to develop a public-private partnership to help the long-term economic interests of watermen

7) Spur innovation – A large portion of funding supports research to find the most cost-effective means of reducing pollution to the Chesapeake. In all, about $6 million was awarded in the recent budget for, “Innovative nutrient and sediment reduction grants.” As part of that, the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science received $126,387 to fund one full-time employee to manage the Innovative Technology Fund that helps local governments use the most cost-effective solutions.

8) Support water quality monitoring – About $400,000 was provided Bay-wide to local citizen groups to conduct monitoring

9) Educate and engage students – Examples include: The Otter Point Creek Alliance Inc in Harford County received $75,645 to engage students in stream studies and action projects; the Howard County Conservancy received $53,117 for a similar project

10) Support Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for water monitoring, cleaning up Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Harford County,

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