Thanks to vital Congressional leadership, states and federal agencies have been working together to restore the Chesapeake Bay for decades. In 2014, the six Bay states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government signed a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that redoubled their commitment to achieve healthy water quality, fisheries, and habitat in the Bay and its tributaries by 2025.
The cornerstone of this federal-state partnership is strong trust and collaboration, and Congress has historically provided bipartisan support and funding for the Bay through the federal budget process.
As we approach the 2025 deadline, a restored Bay is in sight. But new threats from extreme weather, climate change, and additional pollution loads from the Conowingo dam require accelerated efforts to reach restoration goals. That includes continued—and in some cases increased—federal funding to the following programs that are critical to the Bay’s progress:
- Chesapeake Bay Program
Originally created under President Ronald Reagan, this program is the glue that holds the federal-state partnership together. It supports complex cross-state collaboration and excellent stewardship of taxpayer dollars by providing states access to the watershed-wide science, research, modeling, monitoring, and data they need to efficiently plan, track, and adapt their restoration activities. Over 60 percent of program funds go to states, primarily through matching grant programs that drive local investment in state restoration priorities.
Increasing federal support for the program from $73 million to $90 million is an important step to save the Bay and repair some of the most damaged waterways in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. CBF recommends that the additional $17 million be used to:
- Expand two grant programs—one that improves water quality and habitat in small, local waterways, and a second that supports innovative and market-based approaches to reducing pollution.
- Assist local governments in reducing pollution.
- Increase assistance to priority watersheds that will provide the most cost-effective pollution reductions.
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Programs
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) is a key partner in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement goal to restore oyster populations in 10 Bay tributaries in Maryland and Virginia by 2025. It provides significant technical expertise, logistical coordination, and funding for the construction and long-term monitoring of oyster restoration projects. USACE also completed a Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan in 2018 that identified more than 300 restoration projects throughout the watershed in need of funding.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Programs
Through several conservation programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture works with farmers to plan and install voluntary practices that protect water quality by reducing the flow of valuable nutrients and sediments from agricultural lands into rivers and streams. The programs are funded through the Federal Farm Bill and support every state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. They include:
- Environmental Quality and Incentives Program (EQIP)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- Conservation Reserve/Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP) See how CREP and other programs are helping farmers reduce the amount of pollution entering local waterways and the Bay.
Congress passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or 2018 Farm Bill, into law on December 20, 2018. To ensure that these programs are put to the best use in the Chesapeake Bay region, the maximum amount of funding contemplated by Congress should be appropriated.
Find out how to contact your member of Congress to ask for continued funding of these key programs.
Learn more about the FY 2020 funding needs of federal programs critical for Bay restoration.
To stay up-to-date on legislation, check our Federal Updates.