EASTON — A legislative package in Congress proposes funding several environmental initiatives that would help pay for Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.
Six out of nine of the bills included in the package were originally introduced by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., according to the senator’s spokesman.
According to a statement from the senator’s office, the package would “reauthorize marquis programs at the heart of restoring and maintaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.” Both Democrats and Republicans have signed on as sponsors.
“A healthy Bay means a healthy economy for Maryland and the entire Chesapeake Bay Watershed region, which cannot be accomplished without a reliable federal partner,” Cardin said. “I urge appropriators to take note of the bipartisan support for authorizing these programs, despite the president’s lack of understanding of their worthiness.”
Chesapeake Bay cleanup funding is feared to be in jeopardy following the release of President Donald Trump’s proposed budget, which altogether eliminates funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, an arm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s that helps facilitate Bay cleanup between states across the watershed and tracks progress of pollution reduction.
One part of the legislation would reauthorize and fund the Chesapeake Bay Program until 2023 at $90 million each year, which Cardin’s office said is more than the program has ever been funding in its history.
“States rely on the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program to provide federal accountability, enforceability, and resources to restore the health of this national treasure,” Cardin said. “Less pollution means more oysters and crabs, healthier farmland, more boats and tourism on the water, and more jobs.”
According to Cardin’s office, the current authorization for the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program expired in fiscal year 2005, but Congress has appropriated funds each year.
The package of bills would also reauthorize and fund the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, which provides technical and financial assistance to state, community and nongovernmental partners to increase access to the Bay and its tributaries.
It also would reauthorize and fund the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, the Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — the largest conservation grant-maker in the nation.
“There’s just a lot of pieces that help make the whole Chesapeake Bay effort stronger,” Cardin’s spokesman Sue Walitsky said.
Co-sponsors of the package include senators from Wyoming, Minnesota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Arkansas.