Oyster restoration programs around the Bay will get a significant boost in federal support this year from legislation approved by Congress in March that funds most federal operations this year.

The 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Bill provides a total of $6.6 million to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Army Corps of Engineers to help rebuild habitats and restore native oyster populations in the Bay.

That is an increase of nearly $3 million over last year for those programs.

Although the federal fiscal year started Oct. 1, legislation to fund most government operations was not approved until Congress passed the $410 billion measure.

The EPA's Bay Program Office will get $21 million, a slight increase from last year. The office provides a coordinating role for cleanup activities, makes grants to states and supports various modeling and monitoring programs that help to guide nutrient reduction efforts.

In addition, the bill includes $8 million for the Chesapeake Bay Targeted Watershed Grants program, which supports innovative, cost-effective strategies to reduce nutrient runoff, and $2 million for the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants program, which helps local communities and conservation groups implement conservation strategies.

Bay region states will get $50.7 million from EPA's Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which makes low-interest loans to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and other water infrastructure improvements. That was the same as last year.

NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Office, which supports fisheries and habitat research and restoration, stock assessments and ecosystem management efforts, will get a boost to $2.95 million from $1.92 million last year.

NOAA will also get $550,000 to support blue crab research, which is also an increase over last year.

In addition, NOAA will get $3.5 million for the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program, which supports efforts to provide support for teachers in the Chesapeake watershed for teaching environmental, outdoor education and stewardship programs.

NOAA's oyster restoration program will get $4.6 million, a $2.8 million increase from last year. Of that, $2.6 million will go to Maryland, and $2 million to Virginia.

The Army Corps of Engineers got $2 million to support Bay oyster restoration, about the same as the previous year. Between the NOAA and Corps programs, $6.6 million will be available for oyster programs.

The U.S. Geological Survey will get $1.35 million for its Priority Ecosystem Science Program, which supports its research programs focused on the Bay and its watershed. That was the same as the year before.

But in a potentially significant setback for Bay efforts, the appropriations bill had no funding for the USGS program that works to develop future land use projections for the Bay watershed. That program, which got $400,000 last year, is important for Bay Program efforts to predict how future growth could impact Bay water quality-information important for shaping future nutrient and sediment control strategies.

The National Park Service's Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network will get $1 million, down from $1.67 million. The network links more than 150 museums, state parks, wildlife refuges, water trails and other sites to help visitors explore the Bay's natural and cultural resources.

Among other Bay-related budget items, the Corps of Engineers will get $287,000 for Bay shoreline sediment management programs, and NOAA will get $500,000 to support continued maintenance and deployment of monitoring buoys along the Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. The U.S. Forest Service will get $1 million to continue its Bay-related forest stewardship program.

The biggest federal support for the Bay, though, is coming from other legislation.

The economic stimulus legislation passed in February will steer hundreds of millions of dollars to programs that could help the Bay over the next two years (See "Millions of dollars in stimulus bill could aid Bay's restoration," March 2009). For instance, the region will get an additional $878 million in EPA State Revolving Loan Fund money over the next two years from the stimulus bill-17 times more than the region will get from the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill.

And the federal Farm Bill passed last year will provide more than $400 million over five years for programs that will support conservation programs by farmers in the region. Of that, $188 million is designated specifically to Chesapeake Bay programs. (See, "Farm bill includes huge influx of new conservation funds for Bay watershed," June 2008.)