Passing a new Farm Bill and funding the upgrade to the District of Columbia's Blue Plains Wastewater Treatment Plant tops the list of federal priorities in a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Commission.
The commission, an advisory panel that represents the legislatures of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, in February issued a "Congressional Agenda" outlining what it believes to be the most important Bay-related actions Congress can pursue between now and 2010.
The commission urges final action on the Farm Bill-something that could happen as early as this month-and asks that the legislation maintain provisions that would steer tens of millions of additional dollars annually to the Bay watershed to help farmers install conservation practices that would reduce runoff.
It also called for approving $30 million, including $4 million in the coming year, to help pay for nutrient removal upgrades at Blue Plains, the largest single sewage plant in the watershed. The upgrade would reduce the amount of nitrogen discharged by about 4 million pounds a year, according to the report.
The Commission also called for:
- Reauthorizing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office with language specifically supporting its educational and scientific programs.
- Reauthorizing the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program; its current authorization expired in 2005. The report said reauthorization offers a chance to move restoration forward, and specifically called for placing more focus on moving the Bay Program upstream, including the development of river action plans that build upon existing tributary strategies-which are focused on nutrient and sediment reductions-by setting goals for living resources, habitats, land use and stewardship. The reauthorization should also require the Bay Program to develop annual "report cards" for each river.
- Reauthorizing the National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program. Its current authorization expires this year, A draft Park Service study in 2004 recommended that the Gateways Program be made a permanent part of the National Park Service.
- Approving the "No Child Left Inside Act," which would provide significant federal support for states to offer quality environmental education. The bill authorizes providing states with $100 million annually to develop and implement environmental and outdoor education programs to ensure that every high school graduate is "environmentally literate."
- Supporting climate change legislation that would create a "cap and trade" program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The commission specifically supports a Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. John Warner, R-VA, and Joe Lieberman, I-CT, which would set aside a portion of revenues raised from the auction of carbon credits for the restoration of large ecosystems that will be impacted by climate change, including the Chesapeake Bay.
- Seeking language in the federal Surface Transportation Act, which guides federal highway spending, that would increase the availability of highway funds to mitigate the impact of stormwater runoff from roads.
The full report is available at www.chesbay.state.va.us.