WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) Thursday announced bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the foundational regional partnership supporting the Chesapeake Bay’s health and restoration: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program. Building on previous Cardin-Capito efforts, the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act (S. 701) would provide $90 million in FY2020, with a $500,000 increase each year for the five years authorized. The vast majority of funding for the program would go directly toward states within the Chesapeake Bay Watershed – Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York, plus the District of Columbia – to help control pollution and manage runoff into the tributaries that feed into the Bay.
Leading the bipartisan companion effort in the House of Representatives are Congresswoman Elaine Luria (VA-02) with Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force Co-Chairs Rep. John Sarbanes (MD-03), Rep. Bobby Scott (VA-03) and Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-01).
Text of the Chesapeake Bay Program Reauthorization Act can be found here.
“The health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on all of us in the region – federal, state, local, and private partners – working together toward a common goal – the preservation and restoration of the watershed, which in turn ensures better health for our citizens, economy and local wildlife,” said Senator Cardin. “States rely on the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program to provide federal accountability, enforceability, and resources. Less pollution means more oysters and crabs, healthier farmland, more boats and tourism on the water, and more jobs.”
“The Chesapeake Bay headwaters in West Virginia play an important role in our state’s economy,” Senator Capito said. “I’ve long supported the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which so many states rely on, and I am proud to join my colleagues once again in reauthorizing this important program. Doing so will provide critical grant funding to West Virginia, allowing us to continue efforts to make sure the Chesapeake Bay remains an important natural resource for future generations.”
Created by President Reagan and ratified by Congress in 1987, the current authorization for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program expired in Fiscal Year 2005, although Congress has appropriated funds each year. Congress appropriated $73 million dollars for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program in FY 2019, despite the threat of steep cuts in the president’s budget.
“The Chesapeake Bay is among the most important sites for ecological diversity in North America, and we want to keep it clean and thriving for future generations,” Congresswoman Luria said. “I’m proud to lead a bipartisan effort to protect precious economic and environmental resources with a cost-effective, state-focused approach. Congress must stand up for the Bay – one of our greatest natural treasures.”
“Today, we’re making a critical investment in the Chesapeake Bay,” Congressman Sarbanes said. “This bipartisan bill will provide Maryland and other states in the Bay Watershed with the resources they need to restore Bay health and ensure that the Bay remains an economic driver and environmental treasure for generations to come.”
“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and a centerpiece of the culture and economy of many coastal communities in Virginia, and neighboring states. Through the Chesapeake Bay Program, the overall health of the bay has improved significantly – we are seeing better water quality, more rockfish, and more blue crabs,” Congressman Wittman said. “However, without continued collaboration among stakeholders and federal support, progress in the Bay is threatened. With today’s action, we are one step closer to ensuring that the Chesapeake Bay remains the economic foundation of our region that will be enjoyed for generations to come.”
“Since its creation in 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program has played a critical role in Bay restoration. Through good science and comprehensive local, state, and federal cooperation, the Program is a vital tool in restoring the Bay,” Congressman Scott said. “Fully funding the Program is the right thing to do for the Bay, the environment, and our future.”
In June 2014, a new voluntary Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed by the governors of the six states in the watershed, and the federal government, to work in partnership through the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. The agreement has 10 goals to improve water quality in local rivers and streams and the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.
Federal program funds are used to coordinate the complex science, research, modeling, monitoring, data collection, and other activities essential to the Bay Agreement and support Partners’ collaboration. Over 60% of funds go to states, primarily through grants programs that leverage private investment for restoration activities. Each Bay Program partner uses its own resources to implement Bay restoration and protection activities.