(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today approved a sweeping conservation bill that includes important provisions to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Program and two programs to expand public access to the Bay, as well as create a grant program to fund fish and wildlife conservation projects in the watershed.
The package, titled the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act, contains crucial bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Ben Cardin to reauthorize EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program through 2025 at $90 million annually. The Bay program is the linchpin that coordinates the federal-state partnership to clean up the Bay and the local streams, rivers, and waterways that feed into it. Congress hasn’t formally extended its authority since 2005.
In September the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee advanced a companion reauthorization bill co-sponsored by Representative Elaine Luria and Chesapeake Bay Task Force co-chairmen John Sarbanes, Bobby Scott, and Robert Wittman.
The Senate Environment committee package also contains legislation authored by Senator Chris Van Hollen to create the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) matching grant program and authorize it at $15 million annually through 2025. The program would fund and coordinate federal, state, local, and regional activities to conserve fish and wildlife habitat in the Bay watershed. Senators Ben Cardin, Thomas Carper, Robert Casey, Christopher Coons, Kristin Gillibrand, Tim Kaine, Joe Manchin, Shelley Moore Capito, and Mark Warner co-sponsored the Chesapeake WILD bill.
The third Bay-related provision is Senator Cardin’s bill to reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program through 2025. The National Park Service runs this matching grant program to expand recreation, education, and public access to the Chesapeake Bay through local, state and federal partnerships.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation Federal Executive Director Jason Rano made the following statement on adoption of the bill:
“Together these programs will help put in place initiatives outlined in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint for restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Coupled with the $12 million increase for the Chesapeake Bay Program in the budget deal announced last night, these actions demonstrate strong bipartisan support in Congress for saving this national treasure.”
“Many thanks to Senators Cardin, Van Hollen, Capito, Carper, Casey, Coons, Gillibrand, Kaine, Manchin, and Warner for their steadfast commitment and tireless efforts on behalf of the Bay.”