Despite the escalating Bay cleanup costs, the region appears likely to net fewer, not more, federal dollars for the Chesapeake’s restoration next year.
The first major appropriations bill passed by Congress this year, covering the Interior Department and the EPA, took a big bite out of the EPA’s Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund, which helps to pay for upgrades to wastewater treatment plants and other large infrastructure programs.
With some estimates for the Bay cleanup reaching as high as $30 billion, governors of the Bay states have pledged to make lobbying for federal funds a top priority.
But the region will end up with less cash from the Interior bill, largely because of the $200 million cut to the State Revolving Loan Fund.
That will cost the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia a combined total of $19 million in the 2006 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.
Overall SRF funding was cut from $1.1 billion to $900 million, with Maryland slated to get $21.73 million, Pennsylvania $35.59 million and Virginia $18.39 million.
It was the second straight year of cuts for the SRF; in the 2004 fiscal year it had received $1.34 billion. That year, Maryland got $32.38 million; Pennsylvania, $53 million; and Virginia, $27.4 million.
Meanwhile, the EPA’s Bay Program Office, which received $20.8 million this year, will get almost as much in 2006, with Congress allocating $20.75 million. The office coordinates the state-federal cleanup effort and supports core Bay monitoring and modeling efforts, as well as Bay-related research, public outreach and state restoration activities.
The Small Watershed Grants Program, which supports locally based restoration efforts, was allocated $2 million, the same as this year.
The new Targeted Watershed Grants Programs, which was first funded this year with $8 million to promote innovative runoff control programs, will be continued for another year, but with $6 million in funds.
But money for the National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network was cut to $1.5 million, from $2.5 million this year. The network includes more than 140 sites, such as state parks, wildlife refuges and museums, that highlight the Bay’s natural, cultural and historic heritage.
Funding for U.S. Forest Service activities related to the Chesapeake was also reduced, from $1.22 million this year to $950,000 next year.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will get $500,000 for fish passage improvements on the Susquehanna River, the same as this year. And, in a new project, Congress approved $500,000 for the USF&WS to restore wetlands in the Upper Susquehanna watershed.
The U.S. Geological Survey will get $200,000 to protect diamondback terrapins, which scientists say are declining in numbers around the Bay. But Congress did not provide the USGS with $250,000 to support water monitoring in Chesapeake Bay tributaries, which had been funded this year.
Funding for other federal agencies that are major players in Chesapeake restoration, such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is pending in appropriations bills that will be acted on when Congress returns in September.