Congress opened the federal wallet wider for many Bay-related initiatives in 2010, sending record amounts of funding to help farmers in the watershed control nutrient runoff, and to states to support water infrastructure improvements.
In addition. Congress appropriated a record $50 million for the EPAÕs Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates federal and state cleanup efforts. That was a huge increase over the $31 million the program got in 2009, and $15 million more than the $35 million originally requested in President Barack ObamaÕs budgetÑwhich itself would have been a record amount.
The additional $19 million is to support additional regulatory programs to control urban, suburban and agricultural runoff, and to increase grants to states to bolster their regulatory and enforcement programs.
The $50 million will also provide funding for the Small Watershed Grants program, which supports locally based restoration projects, and last year got $2 million, as well as the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund grants program, which funds innovative nutrient control efforts and received $8 million last year.
The EPA 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.
Bay region farmers stand to reap huge benefits in the 2010 budget, which includes an unprecedented $43 million to help implement conservation measures on farmland within the Chesapeake watershed.
ItÕs the second year of a five-year, $188 million Chesapeake Watershed Initiative approved in the 2008 Farm Bill. The 2010 figure represents a planned ramp-up from the initiativeÕs $23 million this year. The program provides cost-share money, mostly to farmers in targeted watersheds, for implementing highly effective nutrient and sediment control practices.
The Bay region will also benefit from the record $2.1 billion approved for the EPAÕs Clean Water State Revolving Load Fund, which is distributed among states nationwide to make low interest loans to upgrade wastewater treatment plants and other water infrastructure programs. That was a huge increase from the $689 million the fund got in 2009.
Congress also approved $1 million for the National Park ServiceÕs Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network, the same as last year. The network includes more than 150 natural, cultural and historical sites around the Bay, along with more than 20 water trails throughout the watershed. The program helps to pay for maps and signs that link and identify network sites, and makes grants to help sites tell their Chesapeake story or to improve public access.
The park service is also receiving $500,000 to begin planning for the new Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, which was approved in 2008 and will link sites around the Bay that are significant for the War of 1812.
The Army Corps of Engineers will get $2 million to support oyster restoration in Maryland and Virginia, the same as last year, and $897,000 to support underwater grass restoration, a program that received no funding in 2009. It also got $90,000 to help study sediment issues on the Susquehanna River, where concerns have mounted because the reservoir behind Conowingo Dam could fill in the next 15 years, sending more sediment into the Bay.
Congress approved $2 million for an expansion of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in MarylandÕs Dorchester County. The funds will help purchase between 500 and 1,000 acres of additional habitat at the refuge.
Also, $585,000 was appropriated to study the water quality and quantity of a 175-mile stretch in the middle of the Potomac River to determine how both may change in the future. That area is home to 75 percent of the population in the Potomac basin.
Congress also approved $1 million for U.S. Forest Service activities related to the Bay, the same as last year.
At Bay Journal press time, some budget issues were still pending, including appropriations for the Commerce Department, which funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric AdministrationÕs Chesapeake Bay Office.
The 2010 federal fiscal year began Oct. 1.