In a tight budget that recommends spending cuts for most federal departments, the Bay Program — as well as environmental programs in general — emerged winners in President Clinton’s spending plan for the 1995 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
The EPA’s budget request earmarks $20.85 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, up slightly from the $20.81 appropriated by Congress for the current fiscal year. “The good new here is that in tough times the Bay Program is holding its own or getting ahead a little bit,” said Jon Capacasa, deputy director for EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office.
The money will help to fund a variety of restoration activities, such as nutrient reduction programs in the states, toxics research, and habitat restoration projects including wetland restoration, oyster reef habitat enhancement, and forested buffer development.
In addition, the EPA has budgeted $2.3 million for Anacostia River restoration.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay office is slated to get $1.89 million — the same as the current year — which will fund fish stock assessments, toxics research, remote sensing projects, and operation of its Annapolis office.
The administration has also requested $1.5 million for NOAA oyster disease research. The administration’s request represents a major change — for years, administrations had recommended that NOAA’s Bay operations be ended. NOAA’s Bay activities continued only because of money added by Congress.
Last year was the first time an administration requested money for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, and this year was the first time an administration requested money to continue research on diseases that have devastated the Bay’s oyster population. The change is significant because when the administration specifically requests funding in its budget, it is considered more likely to be supportive of the program in future years.
“In the past year and a half we’ve seen a major shift in the NOAA’s interest in cooperative partnerships for ecosystem management such as the Chesapeake Bay Programs,” said Bess Gillelan, director of NOAA’s Bay office.
Still, the administration did not request continued funding for the deployment of a series of NOAA monitoring buoys which provide continuous information about Bay conditions to researchers. Congress added $400,000 for the project in each of the last two years, and it will be up to Congress to determine whether the project continues.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Chesapeake Bay Estuary Program was budgeted for $2.064 million, the same as the current year. USF&WS is involved in habitat restoration programs, public education, conservation programs for migratory fish, and other Bay resource issues.
Although many other federal agencies are involved in Bay restoration activities, they do not have specific line items in the budget for those programs. The budget, therefore, does not indicate their level of support for the coming year.
The funding for Bay-related programs reflected a budget trend that generally saw increases — or near stability — in funding for agencies which deal with resources and the environment.
The EPA’s budget for 1995 would increase to $6.7 billion, up from $6.5 billion this year. The agency's $3.1 billion operating budget, which includes research, regulatory activities and state grants for pollution control, would grow by 13 percent.
To clean the nation's waterways, the EPA proposes substantially more money to help states and municipalities pay for water pollution control programs, including increasing a revolving fund for water treatment programs by a third, to $1.6 billion.
Research into development of pollution-control technology would get a 25 percent boost to $20 million.
The EPA also would also hire 4.5 percent more employees as it tries to reduce its reliance on contractors. About a third more money, a total of $160 million, is being proposed for programs aimed at reducing the use of pesticides.
NOAA’s budget request of $1.96 billion is down slightly, though its operating budget is up 8.3 percent. The National Marine Fisheries Service, of which NOAA’s Bay office is a part, was budgeted for $281 million, up from $231 million this year. Much of that increase reflects a new “sustainable fisheries” program from NOAA, which is aimed at gathering better scientific information about fisheries and using it to develop better management programs and reduce overfishing. A total of $309.4 million was requested for the sustainable fisheries initiative.
Other NOAA programs which play a role in the Bay region — such as the Coastal Zone Management Program, the National Sea Grant College Program — are budgeted for similar amounts as this year.
The Department of Interior, which got an 8 percent increase this year, was budgeted for a 3.4 percent cut in 1995, to $7.2 million. Some of the cut could be offset if Congress agrees to proposed increases in grazing and mining fees, and increases in National Park entrance fees. As part of the government’s overall downsizing, the department is slated to lose 1,400 employees.
Nonetheless, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and the new National Biological Survey were budgeted for increases of about 6 percent. There is also additional funding for Interior’s ecosystem management initiatives in the Pacific Northwest, the Florida Everglades, and Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
In other agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requested $283 million for the wetlands reserve program, which funds farmers who set aside wetlands, a 322 percent increase. At the same time, the administration has proposed cutting the department’s watershed program, which could hinder its efforts to develop localized watershed programs in the Bay region.
Solar and renewable energy programs in the Department of Energy were budgeted for a 15 percent increase, while the department’s energy conservation programs were slated for a 42 percent increase.