The Bay Program, as well as many Chesapeake-related activities, appear likely to win increased funding support when Congress returns in September to complete its budget work.
After the Bush administration initially proposed cutting many of those programs, bipartisan coalitions in both the House and Senate pushed appropriation bills through both chambers during the summer that would not only restore funding for almost all cut programs, but also provide increases for many of them.
Differences between House and Senate versions of the bills will have to be worked out in conference committees when Congress returns from its summer break. The 2002 fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The EPA’s Bay Program Office, which had been level funded for years and was facing a proposed cut by the administration, would see its budget increase from $19.5 million last year to $20.8 million in the House bill and $20.7 million in the Senate bill.
The Bay Program Office is the focal point for coordinating the state-federal cleanup effort. It supports core Bay monitoring and modeling efforts, as well as Bay-related research, public outreach and some state programs.
In addition, the Senate would provide $1.75 million to continue the Small Watershed Grants program which supports locally based restoration efforts. The House did not include any money specifically earmarked for the grants program.
The administration had originally proposed cutting the Bay Program to $18.7 million, and did not include any money specifically earmarked for Small Water shed Grants.
For the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office, the Senate would provide $3 million, up from the $2.5 million proposed by the administration, with $500,000 earmarked for another small watershed grants program.
In addition, the Senate would provide $500,000 for NOAA to promote the development of multispecies management plans in the Bay, $850,000 for oyster restoration projects and $2 million for blue crab research.
The Senate bill would also launch a three-year, $1.2 million program to fund Bay-related outdoor education projects that would be carried out by nonprofit organizations.
The House bill includes $2.5 million for NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office and $2 million for oyster restoration work.
The Senate proposes $1.6 million for the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network. The House bill provides $800,000, the same as the administration’s request for the program.
The Senate includes $750,000 for the U.S. Forest Service’s Chesapeake Bay efforts, of which $250,000 is set aside for small watershed grants. The House allots $500,000 for the Forest Service.
Both the House and Senate include $3 million in the Army Corps of Engineers appropriation to support oyster restoration work in the Bay.
Also, both the House and Senate are moving to restore funding to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Quality Assessment Program and its Toxic Substances Hydrology Program. The administration has proposed cutting them by $30 million, a third of their total budget.
Those monitoring efforts provide important water quality information to state and federal agencies — including the collection of water quality data for the Bay Program. Money was also restored to the USGS Earth Surface Dynamics program, which is studying long-term changes in the Chesapeake system. The administration had proposed a $200,000 cut.
Nationally, the administration’s budget would have cut funding for the EPA’s National Estuary Program, which helps other estuaries develop cleanup plans, from $18.2 million to $17 million. The House would increase funding for the program to $20 million, while the Senate would increase it to $25 million.