The Senate has approved $2.75 billion to boost the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Program next year — more than twice what President Clinton had requested and more than four times what was available to launch the program this year.

The money was included for the National Park Service as part of the Department of the Interior Appropriations Bill for Fiscal Year 2001, which begins Oct. 1.

The House version of the Interior bill does not include any money for Gateways. Differences between the two versions must be worked out in a conference committee before the final measure can be submitted to the president. A Senate aide working with the legislation expressed confidence, though, that the final measure would likely reflect figures included in the Senate bill.

The Gateways and Watertrails Program, officially launched by the Park Service this summer, is designed to link the natural, historic, cultural and recreational resources of the Bay and its tributaries into a network of scenic drives, hiking paths or river trails.

Eventually, the network may include scores — even hundreds — of sites around the Bay. The first 23 sites were announced by the Park Service in June.

The program provides grants to nonprofit organizations as well as state and local governments to enhance sites participating in the network.

“This action in the Senate is a significant boost to our efforts to preserve the Bay’s unique resources and environmental heritage,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, who led efforts to create the Gateways program. “With this increase in funding, we will be able to add more pearls to our string in linking the Bay’s resources.”

In addition to the Gateways money, the bill includes $500,000 for land acquisition at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.

Also included is $500,000 for the U.S. Forest Service to support the Bay Program’s reforestation efforts through grants to local governments and organizations.

The Blackwater and Forest Service money is not included in the House version of the appropriations bill.