President Clinton's proposed $1.64 trillion 1997 budget would increase overall spending on environmental programs by 4 percent while seeking to balance the government's books by 2002.

The budget would increase spending on the EPA's Chesapeake Bay activities, while those of two other major federal Bay participants, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, would face cuts.

The president's budget, released March 19, includes $21.1 million for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office, or about $400,000 more than had been proposed for the office in 1996.

The increase represents added funds to study the effects of air pollution on coastal waters. The Bay Program was selected for the funds because of its past experience with computer modeling and analysis of the role of nitrogen deposition from the atmosphere on water quality.

About half the Bay Program funds are distributed as grants to Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia to support cleanup activities. Other funds support habitat restoration, monitoring and Bay-related activities.

Meanwhile, funding for Noah Chesapeake Bay Office was put at $1.5 million, about $400,000 less than the office received in 1995, but is similar to the amount expected this year when the 1996 budget is resolved. This year, the office is handling its cuts by reducing its support for toxics-related research projects in the Bay.

No decisions have been made about how to handle reductions for 1997. Besides toxics research, Noah office also supports a wide range of Bay-related activities, including the funding for survey development for species such as blue crabs, oysters, shad and striped bass; conducting remote sensing surveys of the Bay; performing stock assessments on various fish and shellfish species; and habitat restoration activities.

The budget also does not include funding for Noah Chesapeake Bay Observing System buoys, a monitoring system that provides continuous records of water quality conditions in parts of the Bay. The program received $400,000 annually in the past.

The proposed budget would also reduce spending for the USF&WS Chesapeake Bay Field Office in Annapolis and two satellite offices around the Bay to $3.2 million, a cut of about $500,000. The agency is active in habitat restoration, management of migratory fish species, educational activities and other programs throughout the Bay region.

Among other items in the President's budget:

  • Funding for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission and the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin Commission, even though Congress had called for eliminating federal support for both beginning in 1997. Both commissions are multistate agencies that work to manage water quantity and quality and are active in Bay cleanup activities. Combined funding for both commissions is about $1 million a year.
  • Overall funding for environmental programs would increase to $27.3 billion, up from an estimated $26.2 billion which is expected this year when the 1996 appropriations are finalized.
  • Overall funding for the EPA would increase to about $7 billion, up from $6.6 billion in 1995. (Final 1996 action is pending.)
  • Overall funding for the USF&WS would be $1.26 billion, slightly le.ss than the $1.28 billion received in 1995 (Final 1996 action is pending.)
  • The National Biological Service would be moved into the U.S. Geological Survey, as Congress had called for.
  • Sea Grant, which funds coastal research and outreach programs around the country, would get $49 billion, down from $54 billion in 1995. (Final 1996 action is pending).
  • The U.S. Department of agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service would get $1 billion, up from $859 million this year.