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PNS Daily Newscast - March 22, 2019 


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Chesapeake Bay Advocates Seek More Federal Funding

The Susquehanna River is a major water source that empties into the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr)
The Susquehanna River is a major water source that empties into the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay. (Nicholas A. Tonelli/Flickr)
March 8, 2019

WASHINGTON – This week, more than 100 clean-water advocates traveled to Washington DC, urging lawmakers to increase funding for clean water in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

For the past two years, the Trump administration has either proposed cuts or zeroed-out funding the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program. This year, the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which has fought against those cutbacks, is aiming higher by asking Congress to fund the program at $90 million, instead of its usual request for $73 million.

Coalition Director Chanté Coleman says this is the first increase request since 2015.

"It's really, really critical this year that we get additional funding, because there are certain triggers happening with the Chesapeake Bay right now that are threatening to stall all the progress that we've been making,” says Coleman. “These are issues like climate change, which is causing flooding and more severe storms."

The coalition – made up of more than 230 nonprofit organizations – managed to convince a bipartisan group of lawmakers to maintain funding in last year's omnibus spending bill.

It's a two-step process for increasing what's considered the core part of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort. The funds would first have to be approved by a policy committee, and then the Appropriations Committee would take up the $90 million request.

Maryland Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen sits on both committees, but says the increase will still be a challenge because of a tight federal budget.

"We believe have some added urgency to increasing the number,” says Van Hollen. “And that's because of the situation where the Susquehanna River comes into the Chesapeake Bay, there's the Conowingo Dam, where more sediment, more nutrients are flowing over the dam."

Despite that setback, Coleman says the cleanup is showing significant progress including what she calls the largest resurgence of underwater grasses anywhere in the world, providing safe habitat for species like the blue crab.

"Because we're seeing the results of our efforts, the Bay is getting cleaner, water clarity is improving, water quality is improving,” says Coleman. “If we don't receive this funding, then the chances of it stalling the Bay cleanup are higher."

The coalition also asked for increased funding for the Bay's trails program, as well as conservation programs in the newest Farm Bill to support responsible farming practices to minimize farm runoff.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - MD