Press Statement
December 14, 2012

Chesapeake Bay Foundation Statement on Sequestration and the Chesapeake Bay

(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) today applauded statements by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD) to the U.S. House of Representatives about the potential negative impacts of sequestration on the Chesapeake Bay.

CBF Vice President Kim Coble said:

"CBF applauds Representatives Van Hollen and Sarbanes for their efforts to highlight potential setbacks to Bay restoration from budget sequestration. The Bay cleanup requires that all, including the federal government, do their fair share. Sequestration would indiscriminately cut funding across all federal agencies and weaken efforts to reduce pollution in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

"As states ramp up Blueprint implementation and work to meet two-year milestones, it is essential that the federal government meets its funding commitments. Representatives Van Hollen and Sarbanes have long been champions for the Chesapeake Bay and we greatly appreciate their efforts to bring attention to the urgency of continued Bay restoration funding.

"Restoring clean water will benefit our children and future generations. If we don't keep making progress we will continue to have polluted water, human health risks, and lost jobs, all at a huge cost to society."

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Statement by Rep. Chris Van Hollen to the U.S. House of Representatives, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to highlight the potential damage that sequestration could cause to vital efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake Bay is our nation's largest estuary, with a 64,000 square mile watershed that crosses six states and the District of Columbia and is home to 17 million people and over 3,600 species of animals and plants. In 2004, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Finance Panel estimated the economic value of the Bay at over $1 trillion annually.

This vast resource presents unique challenges—the health of the Bay has been threatened by nutrient runoff, population growth and development, overfishing, and even natural factors like rain and snowfall. For nearly thirty years, the Federal government has been a partner in Bay restoration through the Chesapeake Bay Program, an innovative regional partnership that fosters collaboration among the multiple state and local governments, agencies, and advisory groups in the watershed.

In 2009, the President, with the support of those of us in the Bay states, signed an Executive Order to accelerate Bay clean-up by improving targets and coordinating resources. It's an ambitious plan, and states and localities are working hard on implementation. But they cannot do it alone. The federal government must be an active partner, providing financial support and technical assistance.

For example, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund finances capital projects for wastewater treatment upgrades and helps local governments manage stormwater projects, curbing runoff pollution into the Bay. In Maryland, it will cost over $2 billion between 2010 and 2017 to make the necessary stormwater improvements to meet its pollution reduction targets. Sequestration would cut nearly $196 million from the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water funds, limiting resources for these vital repairs and breaking faith with our state and local partners on this collaborative effort. Chesapeake Bay clean-up is at a critical juncture. As state and local governments are working to implement ambitious plans, the federal government must maintain or increase its funding support, not cut it.

Sequestration's meat-ax approach jeopardizes the years of planning and collaboration that have led to this moment, arbitrarily and unwisely slowing progress on what should be a national priority. We must replace sequestration with a balanced approach that includes revenue increases and targeted cuts while maintaining investments in initiatives like Bay restoration that preserve our national resources.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and an economic engine for the Bay states. It must not fall victim to sequestration's ill-advised cuts.

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Statement by Rep. John Sarbanes to the U.S. House of Representatives, Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Mr. Speaker, critical initiatives that help the Chesapeake Bay will be among the hardest hit by sequestration. These programs, including the Small Watersheds Program, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, and the Section 319 Program, provide much needed resources for on-the-ground restoration and conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

These programs are some of the most important tools we have for addressing pollution and storm water runoff in the bay. An 8 percent cut would cost thousands of jobs and exacerbate the already crumbling public water infrastructure that is so prevalent in Maryland and across the country, adding pressure to State and local governments
to pay for Federal programs that have been slashed. As we all know, the budget process is entirely about choices. We must make clean water and clean air a priority. I urge my colleagues to protect these critical programs from reckless cuts that will destroy jobs and destroy the environment.

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Background from CBF: Sequestration Will Affect the Federal Contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Sequestration—the severe budget cuts that are scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 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.

 

 

 

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