Federal Affairs Office Update

wetlands LYRD Morgan Heim 1171x593

Wetlands filter polluted runoff from farmland and paved urban and suburban areas before it can reach local rivers, streams, and the Bay.

Morgan Heim/ILCP

From the Desk of Keisha Sedlacek

Winter 2022

Report: Helping Farmers Improve Water Quality Also Helps Local Economies

A new CBF report details the economic benefits of helping farmers implement the pollution reduction practices needed to restore the Bay and its tributaries. The report, Agricultural Conservation Practices: Clean Water and Climate Smart Investments, found that fully funding practices like planting forested buffers or fencing livestock out of streams would pump $655 million annually into the Bay region’s economy and support 6,673 jobs annually through 2025. It also calculated that for every dollar invested in farm conservation practices that improve water quality, local businesses and workers would see $1.75 in returns through greater sales of goods and services and higher earnings.

Released in November, the report will help the Federal Office advocate for Bay states to get a significant share of the $20 billion increase for conservation programs in the Inflation Reduction Act Congress passed in August. It will also help make a strong case for Congress to boost federal investment in Bay region farmers in the 2023 Farm Bill. Roughly 90 percent of the pollution cuts the six states still need to make must come from agriculture. Conservation practices are often the most cost effective way to reduce polluted runoff from farmland

Supreme Court Hears Wetlands Case that Could Derail the Bay Cleanup

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in October in a case with serious implications for the effort to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. Sackett v. EPA involves an Idaho couple sanctioned by EPA for filling in wetlands on their property without a permit. At issue is which waters are protected by the federal government under the Clean Water Act and which are not.

The Sacketts and their allies support a narrow reading of the law that would prevent EPA from safeguarding several types of wetlands and small waterways essential to cleaning up and protecting the Bay ecosystem. CBF and other environmental groups filed an amicus curiae brief in the case arguing that the Sacketts’ “backward interpretation” of the Clean Water Act would undermine the law’s intent and ignores scientific facts. Restoring and protecting wetlands is important to the Bay cleanup because they are natural filters, trapping polluted runoff from farms, suburban housing developments, and city streets before it can reach waterways that empty into the Bay. A ruling in the case is not expected for several months.

CBF Calls for Nature-Based Solutions to Address Coastal Climate Change

The Federal Office urged the Biden administration to incorporate living shorelines, restored oyster reefs, and other nature based approaches into its plan for mitigating and adapting to climate change effects on our coasts. Using natural materials like native plants often costs less than installing wooden bulkheads, rock walls, and other harden structures. Natural materials also can absorb wave energy, improve water quality, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife, in addition to helping to mitigate the impacts of rising seas and more intense storms.

CBF also stressed the importance of protecting disadvantaged communities, which are more likely to live in areas threatened by climate change but often lack the funds to relocate or improve their resiliency to its effects. CBF made its recommendations in comments submitted to the White House in November.

—Keisha Sedlacek
Interim Federal Affairs Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

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