Funding for most federal Bay-related programs will remain relatively stable for the coming year under the $388 billion spending bill approved by Congress in November.
The funding includes $2 million for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to continue research on the possible introduction of the nonnative oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, into the Bay. It also includes $8 million in new funding, proposed in the Bush administration’s budget, to support innovative programs to control nutrient runoff in the watershed.
But Congress also slashed funding in the EPA’s State Revolving Loan Fund, which pays for infrastructure improvements such as wastewater treatment plant upgrades, by $250 million, to $1.1 billion next year. The cut will mean a loss of $22 million in the coming year to Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, said Charlie Stek, an aide to Sen Paul Sarbanes, D-MD.
Most other programs were funded at similar levels to last year, except for a 0.8 percent across the board cut needed to stay within spending caps. Other highlights, according to figures released by Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Sarbanes, include:
- The EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office will receive $20.7 million to coordinate and fund Bay restoration efforts.
- The Small Watershed Grants Program, which supports locally based restoration efforts, will get $1.984 million.
- NOAA will get $4 million to restore oyster habitat and and plant disease-free oysters in Maryland and Virginia waters.
- The Army Corps of Engineers will get $2.976 million to continue oyster reef construction Baywide.
- The Blue Crab Advanced Research Consortium will get $2.18 million to continue the hatchery production and release of juvenile blue crabs into the environment.
- The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program will get $2.48 million. This program involves students in the stewardship of Bay resources.
- The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office will get $3.47 million to support fish and crab research and monitoring, the Coastal Prediction Center, submerged aquatic vegetation research grants, living resource response to toxic contamination, ecosystem modeling and community watershed restoration grants.
- The Oxford Cooperative Laboratory will get $4.46 million to research blue crab health, invasive species monitoring and finfish pathology, and for cooperative research with academic institutions for developing environmental indicators of Bay health.
- The National Park Service Gateways and Watertrails Program, which highlights the Bay’s natural and cultural resources, will get $2.48 million.
- $15 million will support the restoration of Poplar Island as a site for the beneficial use of dredged materials