WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen (both D-Md.) announce the award of more than $599,000 in competitive funding for grantees to carry out planning, financing strategy, and monitoring projects for Conowingo Dam reservoir through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP). These resources will help develop a roadmap to address the reservoir’s reduced capacity, which has resulted in increased pollutants making their way through the Susquehanna and into the Chesapeake Bay during storms and floods. Among other activities outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Program’s blueprint, addressing this problem is essential to achieving the 2025 water quality goals.
“The Chesapeake Bay is our State’s greatest natural resource and it’s critical that we nurture and protect it. The Conowingo Dam reservoir plays a critical role in protecting the Bay from harm,” said Senator Cardin, a senior member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. “Recent studies indicate that the reservoir is becoming less effective as a ‘pollution gate’ because it has filled with sediment and is reaching capacity, which is why these federal investments are crucial to account for this challenge and to meet our goal of a healthy bay.”
“For years the health of the Bay has been plagued with sediment and pollution stemming from the Conowingo Dam. The result has hurt our wildlife and our Bay economy – including Maryland’s fishing and boating industries. This investment is a crucial step forward in solving this problem,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Budget and Appropriations Committees. “I’m pleased to announce this funding, and I will continue working in Congress to devote the resources necessary to support the Bay and its health.”
“The Chesapeake Bay Trust, working with the University of Maryland and other partners, looks forward to developing a finance system that will catalyze restoration work in our region,” said Jana Davis, Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Trust. “We hope this work can serve as a model well into the future.”
“The Center for Watershed Protection together with the Chesapeake Conservancy, University of Maryland Sea Grant Extension and the Harry R. Hughes Center for Argo-Ecology welcome the opportunity to work in partnership with the Financing and Verification Teams, EPA, representatives from the Bay States and numerous local stakeholders to develop and implement a completely unique watershed implementation plan to address the infilling behind the Conowingo Dam,” said Bryan Seipp, Watershed Manager, Center for Watershed Protection. “The approach will integrate input from financing experts, state of the art best management practice (BMP) targeting, and will require innovative solutions, dedicated stakeholders, and consistent, open communication.”
“We are excited to partner with some of the leading organizations in the watershed,” said Jeffrey Allenby, Director of Conservation Technology, Chesapeake Conservancy. “We have a large challenge ahead, but more importantly a large opportunity to usher in the future of data driven restoration.”
The funding will be divided into three stages carried out by three different federal partners over the next six years:
- $209,671 to the Center for Watershed Protection to facilitate development and implementation of the Conowingo WIP and associated two-year milestones of progress.
- $304,940 to the Chesapeake Bay Trust to develop a comprehensive Conowingo WIP financing strategy and associated investment plan that will involve public, nonprofit and private funds to achieve the greatest level of pollutant reduction per dollar while maximizing economic development.
- $84,605 to the Chesapeake Conservancy to track, verify and report implementation of the Conowingo WIP and two-year milestones.
The Chesapeake Bay Program provides critical federal accountability, enforceability, and resources for states and local partners to work together toward preservation and restoration of the bay.
These activities fulfill a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan agreed upon by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s six watershed states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia), the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission. In December 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program Principals’ Staff Committee (PSC) recognized the importance of the reservoir to CBP’s mission of restoring and protecting the health of the Bay and decided to create a separate Watershed Implementation Plan for it, effectively treating it as its own jurisdiction.
Senators Cardin and Van Hollen are leading the effort in the Senate to reauthorize bipartisan legislation to reauthorize the program at increased funding levels. 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.