The EPA would be required to make timely reports to the public about the status of Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, and local governments would gain a larger role in the job—and more funding—under legislation introduced in the House.
Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-MD, introduced the Chesapeake Bay Restoration and Enhancement Act of 2005 after meetings with federal, state and local officials about how to improve the restoration efforts.
“The two themes we heard during our meetings were clear,” Gilchrest said. “Increase accountability for the Bay Program, and let local governments play a bigger role in Bay cleanup efforts.”
The bill, which reauthorizes the operation of the EPA’s Bay Program Office, is similar to a Senate bill introduced earlier this year that sought to improve public accountability by requiring the EPA to annually provide comprehensive reports to the public of progress toward meeting restoration goals. (See “Legislation proposed to improve accountability in the Bay Program, September 2005.)
The EPA would have to report to the public by Jan. 31 each year on all of the projects and accomplishments of the previous year that were funded by state or federal agencies and contribute to the Chesapeake 2000 agreement goals.
The EPA would also be required to report about progress made for each Bay tributary, using both modeling and monitoring data, in achieving nutrient and sediment reduction goals. The report would rank tributaries based on progress made in achieving their goals and, to the maximum extent possible, identify the principal sources of pollution in each tributary.
States would be required to submit information for the report by Nov. 30 or lose their EPA grants.
In a difference from the Senate version, the House bill increases emphasis on local governments. It calls for the EPA to help set cleanup goals for local governments, and to give funding priority to projects with local government participation. The bill also directs that local governments receive at least 40 percent of the total amount of Small Watershed Grants that are awarded each year to support locally based restoration efforts.
“After more than 20 years of restoration efforts, the Chesapeake Bay remains on the EPA’s list of impaired water bodies,” Gilchrest said. “And while we’ve seen some results, the challenges we face grow more difficult with every new development in the Bay watershed. We’re running out of time. We need to better support local efforts to clean the Bay and we need to make sure that all our efforts are working.”
In another departure from the Senate version, the act would require that nutrient load allocations or other specific pollution control requirements be assigned for any activity that receives a discharge permit under the Clean Water Act if the Bay Program does not meet its 2010 cleanup goal. That means that Bay goals could be incorporated not only into wastewater treatment plant permits, but also those issued for large animal feedlots and urban stormwater systems.
Similar to the Senate version, the bill directs the White House Office of Management and Budget to submit a coordinated federal agency budget each year to carry out Chesapeake-related restoration activities.
The bill would authorize Congress to provide up to $40 million a year for the EPA’s Bay Program Office, which now gets about $21 million. In addition, the bill would authorize Congress to appropriate up to $10 million a year for the Small Watershed Grants in the EPA’s budget. Right now, it gives the EPA about $2 million for the program.