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Pennsylvania's Stake In The Nation's Newest "National Treasure"

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May 18, 2009

Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania has a major stake in President Obama's executive order establishing the Chesapeake Bay as a "National Treasure." The state has two major watersheds draining into the Bay, the Susquehanna and Potomac rivers, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says cleaning up the Bay means cleaner water for drinking and recreation in Pennsylvania.

Matt Ehrhart, executive director of the Foundation in Pennsylvania, calls the "National Treasure" label a victory in the battle to get the Bay cleaned up.

"It makes our streams and rivers drinkable, swimmable. It gives us the economic return from the recreational fishing industry and boating industry, and benefits us all in terms of quality of life."

Ehrhart calls the designation important, but says state and federal budgets are where talk needs to turn into action.

"It's a little frustrating to hear a commitment, but at the same time to be looking at budgets - which from our perspective are where the commitment really lies - being cut."

Ehrhart says the executive order does give his group some new ammunition, and may light a fire under agencies that can make a difference.

"Hopefully it leads to EPA looking very carefully at their responsibility and authority in terms of clean water and of prioritizing resources and dollars here in the Bay watershed, and in Pennsylvania in particular. "

Projects to get the Bay back in shape have taken a hit in recent years. In 2008, President Bush eliminated 23 million dollars from the Chesapeake Bay Watershed program, and this year, the recession has some in Washington thinking there are more important areas in which to spend taxpayers' money.

Tom Joseph, Public News Service - PA