One of the largest grant-making initiatives dedicated to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup has announced it is doling out nearly $13 million this year.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation said Oct. 10 that the funding will be divided among 47 projects spread across the Bay region. The amounts range from $1 million to Virginia Tech for improving agricultural soil health to $38,629 to test buffer alternatives on poultry house properties in Delaware.

The federal agency and the conservation grantmaker jointly oversee the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, which has awarded more than 1,200 grants totaling $158 million since its inception in 1999. Those investments brought in an additional $238 million in matching funds.

This year’s $12.7 million outlay is being matched by $21 million from local sources, officials say.

“These grants will help local communities and conservation partners restore and protect rivers and streams, improving water quality and the ecological health of the Bay,” said Jeff Trandahl, the foundation’s executive director.

Funding has been set aside for projects in all six states in the Bay watershed as well as the District of Columbia. The projects will be led by environmental groups, local governments, conservation districts, faith-based organizations and educational institutions.

Many of the projects aim to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment that wash into waterways that flow into the Bay. Because farms are a leading source of nutrient and sediment pollution, much of the funding flows their way.

This year’s largest project in terms of combined support from the Stewardship Fund and local financing is the Alliance for the Shenandoah Valley’s $4.7 million effort to expand conservation practices on farmland. The group hopes to recruit 90 more farmers into the program while extending 106 miles of fencing to keep livestock out of streams and planting 490 acres of vegetated streamside buffers.

A nearly $2 million Penn State project has similar goals in the lower Susquehanna River watershed. The initiative plans to create 75 acres of forested streamside buffers and 7,500 feet of stream restoration while improving soil health on 1,360 acres of farmland. The focus is on Lancaster, Lebanon and Dauphin counties.

The Maryland Department of Agriculture also received $2.4 million for a program that aims to educate 150 producers, create an advisory committee for the state’s Healthy Soils Program and establish baseline soil health measures.

Some of the recipients have smaller geographic footprints in mind. Blue Water Baltimore, for example, plans to allocate $312,000 toward overhauling the parking lot at the People’s Community Lutheran Church. The project includes constructing a rain garden, planting trees and treating the lot’s surface to reduce stormwater runoff.

The District’s lone project will involve using soil amendments to reduce ground compaction and improve soil health on opens lands. The project’s price tag is $400,000.

Improving brook trout habitat is the subject of three Trout Unlimited projects, including $455,000 for the Potomac River in West Virginia, $300,000 for the North River watershed in Virginia and $525,000 for Western Maryland watersheds.

The funding doesn’t leave out oysters. Projects getting support include a Chesapeake Bay Foundation plan to create a 2.5-acre oyster reef in the Western Branch of the Lynnhaven River in Norfolk, VA, and a Lynnhaven River Now effort to restore 3 acres of reefs in the river’s eastern and western branches. 

Additional support for the grants is provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Altria Group Restoring America’s Resources partnership.