September 25, 2007

CARDIN, MIKULSKI PRAISE FINAL PASSAGE OF WATER BILL TO INCREASE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S COMMITMENT TO THE BAY

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski today praised passage of the House-Senate Conference Report of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) for funding important projects in Maryland and for "setting a new standard of commitment by the federal government to improving the Chesapeake Bay."   The bill passed the Senate overwhelmingly by a vote of  81 to 12.

 

The measure passed the Senate in May and went to conference committee to iron out differences with the House-passed version.   The $21 billion bill funds most of the Army Corps of Engineers' water projects across the country.

 

Senator Cardin, a member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, said the bill contains funding for important projects across Maryland.   He also singled out the bill's funding of state sewage treatment facilities calling it "a groundbreaking step" in future efforts to clean up the Bay.

 

"The Bay is one of our nation's greatest natural treasures and this measure will allow us to build on past efforts to protect and restore the Bay," said Senator Cardin.   "We can now proceed with projects for Poplar and Smith islands, flood protection in Allegany County and the continued dredging of the Port of Baltimore to ensure safe navigation."

 

"Congress has approved a significant federal investment in the lives and livelihoods that depend on the waterways of Maryland. These projects will help ensure that freight carriers and cruise ships can safely navigate Baltimore's channels so the Port can continue to serve as an important economic engine for the state," said Senator Mikulski. "In the next step of the process, I will fight as a member of the Appropriations Committee for money in the federal checkbook to make these priorities a reality."

 

The WRDA authorization includes over $300 million for Maryland projects, including:

 

  • $30 million to significantly reduce nitrogen flowing from the Blue Plains sewage treatment plant into the Bay.   Blue Plains is the largest advanced sewage treatment facility in the world, servicing the entire Washington metropolitan area, including Prince George's and Montgomery counties.   The bill also provides $40 million for other projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed;
  • $195 million for expansion of the Bay's Poplar Island project, which involves rebuilding the Island with dredged material from the channels serving the Port of Baltimore;
  • $10.1 million for restoration of Smith Island by constructing two miles of off-shore breakwaters that will protect more than 2,100 acres of wetlands and underwater grasses;
  • A $7 million increase in funding for Cumberland flood control and restoration of the C&O Canal;
  • A $20 million increase in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers' oyster restoration effort; and,
  • $30 million of additional funding for the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Programs.

 

Senator Cardin also stress that this bill contains important provisions that will reform the Army Corp.   "Peer review, transparency, and a requirement that every construction project be subject to a cost-benefits test are all critically important reforms, and all are included in this bill," Senator Cardin added.