Funding for several Bay-related programs remained relatively stable or got slight increases in appropriations bills for the 2006 fiscal year that Congress approved in November.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office will get $3.5 million to support its core fisheries, toxics and coastal prediction activities, the same as this year.

But the office’s Bay Watersheds Education and Training Program, which promotes Bay stewardship and education among teachers and students, will get $3.5 million, up from $2.5 million this year.

Funding to support NOAA’s native oyster restoration work in Maryland will double, from $2 million to $4 million, while its support for oyster restoration by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science will remain at $2 million. The office will also get $2 million for research on the nonnative oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, the same as this year.

In addition, NOAA’s Bay Office will get $5 million to support research by the Blue Crab Advanced Research Consortium, which includes scientists from the Chesapeake and the Gulf Coast who are working to understand the crab’s basic biology and conducting experimental hatchery-based crab release programs. That was a sharp increase from $2.2 million this year.

Meanwhile, Congress approved $2 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to conduct environmental and restoration programs related to the Bay, such as wetland restoration and shoreline protection. That’s an increase from $1.5 million this year.

But money for the Corps’ oyster restoration programs will drop from $3 million this year to $2.25 million in 2006. It will also get $500,000 for underwater grass restoration in the Bay, down from $1 million this year.

In addition, the Corps will get $975,000 to study Chesapeake shoreline erosion—a major source of sediment to the Bay that destroys habitats and fills navigation channels. That was up from $581,000 this year.

Earlier this year, funding cuts hit a number of EPA, National Park Service and National Forest Service programs related to the Bay when Congress passed its Interior appropriations. Among the cuts was a $19 million reduction from EPA State Revolving Loan Fund money to the Bay states. The fund helps to pay for wastewater treatment plant upgrades and other infrastructure improvements. (See “Interior bill funding for Bay projects appears less than last year,” September 2005.)

In late November, Congress was also working on a budget bill that would cut Farm Bill conservation funding, including a number of programs used in the Bay region.