The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.
I'm angry and I'm upset. President Donald Trump has proposed something terrible. I'm not willing to trade a healthy Chesapeake Bay for a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump's budget proposal zeroes out the EPA's funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program: from $73 million to $0. You don't have to take my word for this: Please read the president's statement at the top of "America First, A Budget Blueprint to make America Great Again," then skip to page 41.
The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure.
In the late 1970s, headlines declared that the bay was dying. Since then, government at all levels, business, and individuals have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to "Save the Bay."
The effort has been bipartisan and, when tested in federal court, declared a model of cooperative federalism. It's working. The bay is recovering, but our progress is fragile, and the Chesapeake is far from saved.
The road to recovery, while clearly laid out, will not be easy and needs strong federal participation. The EPA Bay Program makes grants to states and municipalities to reduce pollution, monitors water quality, and coordinates the state/federal partnership that is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The bay program's participation is absolutely essential.
Fortunately, there are checks and balances in our government. Congress appropriates and passes the budget, and we have time between now and the new fiscal year (which starts on Oct. 1) to make sure Congress restores funding for the bay.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Hampton Roads have a deep connection to the environment. The James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and the Lynnhaven Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay flow back and forth into each other.
We cross bridges and crawl through tunnels to get from one place to another. The water defines us.
We have celebrated recent signs of recovery in our waters. Oysters and crabs are rebounding, lush beds of underwater grasses thrive in some areas, and the water was so clear last summer that you could see the bottom six to eight feet below the surface. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's most recent State of the Bay Report gave the estuary its highest score in the report's 18-year history. But, that score, a C-, is a stark reminder that much work remains.
The bay's nascent recovery comes after years of hard work. In his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "Though this is a time of budget constraints, I have requested for EPA one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency. We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource—the Chesapeake Bay."
Since then, every administration has worked with the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Virginia Beach), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many similar organizations to "Save the Bay."
Trump's proposed budget zeroing out the EPA's bay program is an outrage. If passed by Congress, this could drive a stake in the heart of the Chesapeake's recovery.
Cuts to the EPA program could cause the bay and our rivers to revert to the national disgrace they were in the 1980s: fouled waters, sickly fish populations, and threats to human health. Zeroing out efforts to assist in restoring the Chesapeake Bay in favor of a wall makes no sense.
This is important. Please join me in sending a serious message to Congress that the Chesapeake Bay is a priority for Hampton Roads and the states all around the bay.
This is not about politics, it's about being good stewards of our environment. It's not about negotiating; it's a moral issue.
More than 8,000 Bay lovers have taken action by calling on Congress to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so now. If you have already, thank you. Please be sure to go one step further and call your congressional representatives. Click here to find their phone numbers. A clean and healthy Bay now and for generations to come depends on your voice!