Most federal Bay-related programs are slated for significant funding increases in President Barack Obama's proposed 2011 budget, which would send more money to states to control nutrient pollution, improve fisheries habitat in the Chesapeake and help the region prepare for future climate change.
Much of the increased spending stems from Obama's Executive Order, which declared the Chesapeake Bay to be a "national treasure" and pledged to make "full use" of federal authority to clean up and restore the Chesapeake.
But the plan only starts the process that will set spending levels for the 2011 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. Congress is responsible for making actual appropriations to agencies. In recent years, Congress has often been more favorable to Bay-related activities than the White House. That may change this year, though, as Congress passed "pay as you go" (or "paygo") rules that mean any spending increases have to be offset by cuts elsewhere.
Regardless of what Congress does, the full effect of the increased Bay spending would be offset in part by cuts being made at the state level throughout the watershed as jurisdictions try to balance their books.
Here are some Bay-related highlights from the Obama administration's budget:
- Environmental Protection Agency: The EPA budget document said the Bay Program "is engaged in some of the most important activities of its 26-year existence, developing a new action plan for Bay restoration and accountability." The budget would increase funds for the EPA's Bay Program Office, which plays a coordinating role for federal and state restoration actions, by about $13 million. That would come on top of a $19 million increase the program received for this year, pushing its total 2011 funding to an unprecedented $63 million.
Most of the increase is intended to support the implementation of the new Bay Total Maximum Daily Load cleanup plan. The money will help to develop regulations to reduce nutrient pollution in the Bay watershed, support state nonpoint source program enhancements and enforce new environmental regulations. The funding would also fully deploy "ChesapeakeState," a web-based decision-making and accountability tool for Bay partners and the public.
Although not spelled out in the budget request, officials say it's anticipated that about $2 million would be set aside for the Small Watershed Grants program, and another $8 million for other nutrient reduction grants programs, similar to funding levels for those initiatives in recent years.
Beyond the money directed specifically to the Bay Program, the budget increases funding for the EPA's Civil Enforcement program to develop and implement a compliance and enforcement strategy for the Chesapeake Bay.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: Funding for the NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Office would jump from $2.1 million to $7.1 million under the president budget's plan. Part of the that increase reflects the inclusion of some programs that had previously been funded separately, such as money to support fisheries research and $500,000 for interactive monitoring buoys along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. Much of the additional funding will help scientists from the Bay office assess the quality of habitats in the Bay and use that information to help target restoration and conservation efforts. It would also help improve a Baywide coordination of fisheries monitoring efforts.
In addition to funding for its Bay Office, the administration's budget proposed $850,000 for native oyster restoration work in the Chesapeake. That would be a decrease from the $3 million approved by Congress for this year.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Farmers in the Chesapeake Bay watershed could get $72 million from the USDA next year to take actions to control nutrient and sediment runoff from their lands. That would be the third year of the four-year, $188 million Chesapeake Watershed Initiative, which is intended to help farmers implement the most effective pollution control techniques in areas where they will have the most impact on the Bay.
Last year, the initiative-which was part of the 2008 Farm Bill-got $23 million; this year it is getting $43 million; and in 2012 it is slated to get $50 million before expiring.
But not all farm conservation programs would get a boost. The budget calls for spending only $1.2 billion on the national Environmental Quality Incentives Program-USDA's largest conservation program-which provides additional funding to farmers in the Bay watershed, and across the country, to implement conservation programs. That's $380 million less than was authorized in the Farm Bill, although still $140 million more than this year.
- National Park Service: Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network would increase to $2 million, twice what the program received this year under the administration's budget. The network includes more than 160 parks, wildlife refuges, museums, sailing ships, historic communities and trails that help visitors experience the Chesapeake. The Park Service provides a coordinating role for the network and makes grants and technical assistance to participating sites so they can develop public access and better explain their unique connection to the Bay.
In addition, the Park Service would get $381,000 to support ongoing planning and development of the new Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
- U.S. Geological Survey: The U.S. Geological Survey, which conducts water quality monitoring, fish health surveys and a host of other science-based activities related to Bay restoration, would get a budget increase of $3.6 million, to $8.45 million, for next year under the administration budget. The additional funds will help the service identify areas for prioritized areas for nutrient reduction and land conservation efforts; improve stream monitoring to better understand the link between management actions and water quality; assess the impact of endocrine disrupter chemicals on the health of fish in the watershed; improve models of how sea level rise will impact areas around the Bay; and evaluate how future climate and land use changes will impact Bay water quality.
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would get $19.3 million for Bay region activities, an increase of $5.4 million over this year. Much of the increase would go for habitat restoration work both in National Wildlife Refuges in the watershed and on private lands. The work would include both terrestrial and aquatic habitats, including the removal of dams and other obstructions to fish migration. The budget also includes money to expand work on environmental contaminants throughout the Bay watershed, including monitoring the potential impacts of natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale on fish and wildlife. Other money will support work aimed at slowing the spread of exotic species.
- Army Corps of Engineers: The Corps' Baltimore and Norfolk districts would get a combined $5 million for oyster restoration work in the Chesapeake. That would be an increase from the $2 million the Corps received for Bay oyster work this year.