U.S. Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and
Barbara A. Mikulski praised Senate passage of the
Water Resources Development Act
(WRDA) today as “bringing the federal commitment to improving the Chesapeake Bay to a new level.” The nearly $14 billion measure, which passed the Senate by a vote of 91 to 4, 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, singled out the bill's commitment to fund state sewage treatment facilities calling it “a groundbreaking step” in future efforts to clean up the Bay.
“This one provision will have a long-term affect on efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, our nation's largest estuary,” said Senator Cardin. “I also am extremely pleased that we can proceed with the projects for Poplar and Smith islands, flood protection in Allegany County, and continued dredging of the Port of Baltimore to ensure the safety of navigation.”
“This bill is a 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. “I will continue to fight as a member of the Appropriations Committee for money in the federal checkbook for these priorities.”
The WRDA authorization includes approximately $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;
- $192 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;
- $9.4 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;
- More than a $6 million increase in funding for the Cumberland flood control and restoration of the C&O Canal;
- A $30 million increase in funding for the Army Corps of Engineers' oyster restoration effort; and,
- $20 million of additional funding for the Chesapeake Bay Environmental and Protection Programs.
“In addition to all it does for Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay, I am especially pleased to support this bill because it contains all the critical Corps reform amendments that the Senate considered last year. 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.