News Article

Federal ‘earmark’ dollars come for projects in Western Maryland, Eastern Shore, and more
March 20, 2024


By: Dwight A. Weingarten

Over $200 million is coming to Maryland from a federal appropriations package signed into law by President Joe Biden earlier this month, funding projects ranging from repairs at Crisfield’s City Dock on the Eastern Shore to wastewater plant improvements in Western Maryland.

“We have over $200 million dollars of funding for 167 projects in the state of Maryland,” said United States Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., during a March 11 press conference held by Zoom.

The federal dollars came as a part of a $460 billion package, which funded government operations across several agencies, including the departments of Agriculture and Transportation. According to reporting from The Associated Press: “The bill also includes more than 6,600 projects requested by individual lawmakers with a price tag of about $12.7 billion.”

During the March 11 press conference, Maryland’s junior U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, also a Democrat, noted both the transparency of the process (known as “congressionally-directed spending,” or colloquially as “earmarks”) as well as the beneficial uses of the funds.

“Every one of the requests that we make is on the internet for everybody to see,” he said. “Sen. Cardin and I do believe these are worthy public purposes that are helping every region and every part of our state.”

Millions of dollars in federal funds coming to Crisfield thanks to Congress

Crisfield Mayor Darlene Taylor called the federal funds coming to the city a “huge benefit.” Taylor, who took office in 2022, said it was the first time Crisfield applied for “an earmark.”

“It was really the office of the senators and the congressman that were key to us getting this funding and their technical assistance in the process,” she said. Taylor said Congressman Andy Harris, R-1st, and Sens. Van Hollen and Cardin “all worked together to get us this funding.”

The two projects for the waterfront city total over $2.5 million. The first project, $2,003,532 to repair climate-related damage and elevate the Crisfield City Dock, could increase the area’s activity, the city’s mayor said.

In a March 15 phone interview, Taylor called the dock the “focal point of our community,” noting the watermen who use the dock, its use as a gateway to Smith and Tangier Islands, and its potential role for a passenger ferry. She said the dock’s current capacity has been limited to 100 people (when the dock used to hold more than 1,000), and the repairs could return capacity.

Unlike in Washington County, where congressionally-directed spending for a new Boys and Girls Club came last year in the form of a jumbo check, Taylor did not know exactly how the money would come or when the request for proposals for the dock repair work would take place.

“I don’t know if it’ll be reimbursable only or if they will give us the money in a lump sum,” said Taylor, less than a week after the federal funds from Washington, D.C. had been authorized. “We just know that the money will be available to us, and we’ll be able to get that work done.”

A second Crisfield project, $500,000 to repair a vacant Main Street storefront for use as a business incubator, is, in Taylor’s word, a “jumpstart” for revitalizing the area. According to an interview with Taylor last July, there were 20-plus empty buildings on Crisfield’s Main Street.

“We have a lot of citizens that want to do something,” said Taylor, in the March 15 interview, “Having a business incubator will help them be able to get started, which in turn will help the city of Crisfield by having some new businesses startup.”

The half a million dollars for the business incubator on Crisfield’s Main Street represented a fraction of the federal investment on the Eastern Shore through the annual spending package.

According to Van Hollen, who said on March 11 that projects are reviewed by federal agencies, senators’ staff and committee staff, the Shore received $57 million spread across 31 projects.

Wastewater system upgrades coming in Worcester, Washington counties

Over $3 million of those federal dollars used on the Shore will be spent for upgrades at two Worcester County Wastewater treatment plants.

Mystic Harbour Wastewater Treatment Plant received $2.5 million for upgrades while the Riddle Farm Wastewater Treatment Plant received $1.09 million to connect to the Ocean Pines sewer service area to provide a back-up system for maintenance or major repairs at Riddle Farm.

At the March 11 press conference, Cardin called water infrastructure “a real challenge,” adding a personal anecdote of his own to illustrate the point.

“I was visiting this past week the western part of our state to take a look at one of the wastewater treatment facility plants,” he said. “Each one of them need major upgrades and improvement.”

The Supervisory Control And Data Acquisition system that monitors wastewater and water treatment plants in Western Maryland’s Washington County as well as 50-plus pump stations in the county received $200,000 for upgrades through the senators’ earmark request.

According to the project description included in a March 14 press release sent by the senators, the system “has not worked properly since a November 2022 cyber breach.”

“Our current system is functioning,” said Washington County spokesperson Danielle Weaver, in a March 18 email, “but with the proposed upgrade it will address support issues and provide a better monitoring structure for each site.”

The $200,000 allocated for the Washington County system again represents a fraction of what Van Hollen at the March 11 press conference called “over $20 million for 20 projects” in Western Maryland.

Projects in each of Maryland’s counties received money, U.S. senator says

Van Hollen said there was at least one project in every county in the state as well as Baltimore City.The Baltimore region, which he classified as the city, the county, Howard County and Carroll County, had “59 projects valued at $65 million,” the state’s junior U.S. senator said.

The D.C.-adjacent Maryland counties of Montgomery and Prince George’s had “34 projects, (valued at) $35 million,” Van Hollen said.

Cardin, not seeking reelection this year, said all 10 members of Maryland’s congressional delegation (eight representatives, two senators) “work together on the appropriations process.”

At the March 11 press conference, Cardin said there were six more appropriation bills that needed to be completed. Those bills, he said, included the appropriations for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and Foreign Operations.

“The (next) six bills will not be as robust in regards to congressional earmarks,” said Cardin, noting “we want to get (them) done by” Friday, March 22.

Dwight A. Weingarten is an investigative reporter, covering the Maryland State House and state issues. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @DwightWeingart2.

This article originally appeared on Salisbury Daily Times: Earmarks fund 160+ projects, including in Crisfield, Washington County