Chesapeake Bay projects-from the upgrade of the Blue Plains wastewater treatment plant to the expansion of Poplar Island-could eventually gain millions of dollars of support after Congress overrode President Bush's veto of a $23.2 billion water projects bill.
The act authorizes improvements for nearly 900 waterway projects nationwide by the Army Corps of Engineers, as well as about $475 million related to the Chesapeake and the region's waterways.
The bill was vetoed because of its cost. But the Water Resource Development Act only authorizes projects. Separate appropriations bills would have to fund each of the projects in the future.
Congress had not passed a bill authorizing water projects since 2000, creating a huge backlog in demand.
Among the Bay-related projects authorized by the bill:
- $192 million for the expansion of the Chesapeake's Poplar Island project, which involves rebuilding the island with dredged material from the channels serving the Port of Baltimore;
- $10 million for the restoration of Smith Island by constructing two miles of off-shore breakwaters that will protect more than 2,100 acres of wetlands and underwater grasses;
- $50 million for the Corps' oyster restoration effort;
- $30 million to significantly reduce nitrogen flowing from the Blue Plains-the largest advanced sewage treatment facility in the world, servicing the entire Washington, D.C. metropolitan area-into the Chesapeake Bay;
- $40 million for the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Restoration and Protection Program to provide design and construction assistance to state and local authorities in the environmental restoration of the Chesapeake Bay; and
- $20 million for environmental infrastructure and resource protection and development in the Anacostia Watershed.
The measure also includes increased oversight for the Corps, including peer review, transparency and a requirement that every construction project be subject to a cost-benefits test.