Shells containing oyster spat raised by the Oyster Recovery Partnership are bagged and placed on pallets to grow before being transplanted to a designated oyster reef elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay.  Photo credit  Mary Hollinger/NOAA NOAA's oyster restoration programs, which have contributed significantly to oyster reef restoration, are just one of the many efforts that will be impacted by sequestration.  Above, shells containing oyster spat raised by the Oyster Recovery Partnership are placed on palates to grow before being moved to a reef. Photo credit Mary Hollinger/NOAA

Sequestration Will Affect Bay Cleanup

Sequestration—the severe budget cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on March 1, 2013—threatens the highly interdependent process for Bay cleanup by indiscriminately cutting funding across all agencies. As states ramp up Blueprint implementation and work to meet two-year milestones, it is essential that the federal government meets its funding commitments.

In his 2009 Executive Order, President Obama outlined an ambitious federal strategy to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and "bring the full weight of the federal government to address the Chesapeake's challenges" as a part of a "collaborative effort involving state and local governments, businesses, non-governmental organizations and the region's residents." The federal departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation and the Environmental Protection Agency have all committed to provide significant support to the cleanup effort and to meeting their own two-year milestones.

In the 2013 Federal Action Plan, these agencies plan to restore clean water, recover habitat, sustain fish and wildlife, and increase public access to the Bay, and have proposed a budget of $448,689,300. Sequestration will cut across all federal agency programs indiscriminately, disregarding the priority that the President placed on Bay restoration, and potentially substantially damaging restorations efforts.

The agency programs that would be affected provide significant support for the cleanup effort. For example:

  • The Chesapeake Bay Program is a multistate partnership with EPA that provides leadership in science, policy and restoration for the Bay cleanup. It coordinates multi-stakeholder working groups, such as the Local Government Advisory Committee, as well as implementation teams of experts who directly work on achieving Blueprint goals, such as restoring habitat and establishing sustainable fisheries. In addition, EPA awards grants through the program, such as implementation grants, small watershed grants, and innovative nutrient and sediment reduction grants. EPA's budget for the Bay Program in 2013 is $178,975,300.
  • NOAA also has a Chesapeake Bay office that monitors and assesses biological processes throughout the watershed and provides grants to restore its fisheries and habitat. For example, the oyster restoration program has contributed significantly to oyster reef restoration. Its 2013 Bay budget is $6,719,000.
  • Likewise, the USDA provides assistance to farmers to change land practices and improve water quality. Its 2013 budget for the Bay is $159,921,000.

The Bay cleanup is intended to be a collaborative effort, and the Bay watershed states relied on a promise of robust federal commitment when establishing their Blueprint milestones and goals. For example, Maryland's Blueprint budget expects $58 million in federal funds from the Clean Water State Revolving Loan Fund for capital projects to improve water quality, particularly by providing low-cost financing to local governments for the local share of costs. It can also fund grants for stormwater projects during construction and post-construction, and water supply projects.

The state also relies on farm bill funds to provide conservation funding to help farmers reduce pollution. But until the Farm Bill is passed, $50 million annually of targeted funding for watershed farmers has been cut off.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) recently made statements to the U.S. House of Representatives about the potential negative impacts of sequestration on the Chesapeake Bay. Read their statements and CBF's response.

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