The fate of the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network remained uncertain in December as Congress adjourned without funding the National Park Service program.
The Gateways Network has been unfunded since the new federal fiscal year began Oct. 1, a victim of Congress’ failure to pass appropriations bills for most federal departments.
Instead, Congress has funded most government operations through a series of “continuing resolutions.” Those resolutions have funded agencies and programs at the lower level of the 2006 appropriation, or the House-passed appropriation for 2007.
The House —reflecting the opposition of some members to such grant programs—has not approved money for the Gateways Network the last two years, although the program has been funded in the past because of support in the Senate.
But the Senate did not pass most appropriations bills in 2006—including one that would have provided $1.625 million to the Gateways Network. As a result, the funding level in the House version— zero —is used under the continuing resolution, which is set to expire Feb. 15.
The park service continues to oversee implementation of past grants made to individual Gateways sites, but it’s unclear what will happen if Congress does not restore funding when it reconvenes, said John Maounis, the park service director for the network.
“We continue, but without any additional funding, there will have to be an end, not to the program, but obviously for any new grants,” Maounis said . “Our hope is that we can eke out a little bit longer and be able to get through into the new year.”
The Gateways Network, which was formally launched in 2000, consists of 152 state or federal parks, wildlife refuges, historical sites, museums, public access and other locations that serve as “gateways” for people to access or experience the Chesapeake. The network also includes 22 water trails covering more than 1,500 miles of the Bay and its tributaries.
The park service—with input from a working group representing state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and others—coordinates the network of locally managed sites and provides grants and technical support to help each tell its Bay-related story.
If the park service loses funding for the program, Maounis said the network may continue, but it would be greatly reduced in scope.
“It is not just about the grants,” he said. “It is about the assistance, and partnering with the National Park Service, and the ability to coordinate and collaborate with other partners and other gateways. Obviously, some of that can continue. It is just going to be much diminished.”