The nation and the Chesapeake region over the last several months have lurched into a recession. This has caused drastic drops in the stock market that have severely affected the values of most organizations' and individual's net worth and portfolios-assuming that one had a net worth and/or a portfolio.
Federal and state officials, as well as candidates for higher office, are all touting various bailout plans for the mortgage industry and stimulus packages for the general economy. Many of those plans include infrastructure investments and getting money into the hands of average citizens to spend.
As a region, we may want to put forth the concept that fulfilling the financial commitment of the Chesapeake's restoration may make the best possible economic stimulus package for the mid-Atlantic.
Our region needs a $29 billion investment to restore the Chesapeake watershed. This would provide the wastewater treatment updates, the urban stormwater controls, the combined sewer overflow and the agricultural payments needed to reduce nutrient and sediment flows into the Bay's rivers and streams.
One estimate of employment generated from infrastructure spending has stated that about 40,000 jobs are generated from $1 billion of investment.
Published reports from the EPA indicate that as a nation, we have been underinvesting in wastewater treatment and clean drinking water technology by about $23 billion a year for the last 20 years. And that is just to keep the wastewater treatment plants operating at today's level and does not account for any upgrades to biological nutrient removal or enhanced nutrient removal.
While Maryland has created a dedicated source of funding for nutrient removal technology, other jurisdictions have not.
In addition, all of the states need resources to maintain and upgrade existing plants. Much of this funding comes through the State Revolving Fund, which has been underfinanced for decades.
So one way the federal government could provide a huge economic stimulus to the region and the nation and benefit the Chesapeake would be to significantly increasing funding for the SFR.
At the same time, a new federal initiative for funding nutrient reduction technologies would really help the smaller wastewater treatment plants in Maryland as well as facilities in Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia that have no idea where they will get the money for the upgrades.
While Congress and the administration are examining clean water funding, they may want to consider a new innovative program for urban stormwater controls. Like wastewater treatment plants, these heavy investment can yield 40,000 jobs per billion dollars invested. But unlike wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater is a problem that we as a nation and region have only begun to address.
Lastly, farm subsidies for conservation practices need to be increased. Talk about putting money in the hands of the little guys who will immediately spend it. Farm payments are one of the best economic stimulus packages around.
I realize that the negotiations on the 2007 Farm Bill just ended late last year. As a region, we applaud our political leaders who were able to increase the payments to Chesapeake farmers.
But the amount passed is only a small part of the full amount needed. I hope that Congress and the administration will realize that increased conservation payments will increase consumer spending while reducing nutrient and sediment loads to streams and the Chesapeake Bay.
Remember, it is only by working together that we can finish the job.