(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) cheered today’s passage by the U.S. House of Representatives of a broad conservation bill that includes language to reauthorize the federal Chesapeake Bay Program and provide for a historic funding increase of up to $92 million annually by 2025.
The House approved the America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act unanimously, without taking a recorded vote. The Senate passed it by unanimous consent on September 16. CBF now urges President Trump to sign the ACE Act soon so the Bay region’s 18 million residents, and the rest of the country, can enjoy its many benefits for the environment, habitat conservation, and outdoor recreation.
Administered by EPA, the Chesapeake Bay Program is the glue that holds together the cleanup partnership of federal, state, and local governments, conservation groups, and educational institutions. It plays an essential role coordinating scientific research, overseeing each jurisdiction’s cleanup activities, and distributing grants for local restoration projects. Its current budget is $85 million.
CBF has long sought to strengthen the Program by securing its reauthorization. The Program was created in 1983 under President Ronald Reagan. Its authorization lapsed in 2005. The reauthorization language in the ACE ACT is based on legislation introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin and Shelley Moore Capito, and Rep. Elaine Luria.
The America’s Conservation Enhancement Act contains other important provisions to advance restoration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The six watershed states (Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, and New York) and the District of Columbia only have until 2025 to meet their commitments for reducing nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution harming the Bay’s living resources.
The Bay-related grant programs the ACE Act would extend or create are:
- Creation of the Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Development (WILD) program within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support restoring fish and wildlife habitat in the Bay watershed. The ACE Act authorizes $15 million annually for the program, which was first proposed in legislation introduced by Sen. Chris Van Hollen and Rep. Bobby Scott.
- Reauthorization of the Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network and the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Grants Assistance Program, which promote greater public access to the natural wonders of the Bay. The language is based on legislation introduced by Sen. Van Hollen and Rep. John Sarbanes.
- Reauthorization of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant program. Recently awarded NFWF grants in the Bay region are helping CBF and community groups:
- Fund a “circuit rider” program to help six jurisdictions on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to identify and seek funding for local Bay restoration and water quality improvement projects.
- Plant 650 shade trees in Richmond neighborhoods suffering from extreme heat linked to racially motivated housing discrimination and provide green jobs training for youth in the community.
- Plant 360 acres of new trees in streamside buffers in eight Pennsylvania counties in the watershed, and train 15 to 20 private landscape professionals, potentially tripling the workforce in central Pennsylvania.
- Reauthorization of the North American Wetlands Conservation matching grant program, which promotes conservation and restoration of wetlands in the United States, Mexico, and Canada. Wetlands serve a vital habitat for migratory birds and key aquatic species in the Bay like crabs. They also protect communities against flooding and filter pollutants out of runoff into the Bay and its waterways.
- Creation of a National Fish Habitat Partnership program to provide funding and technical resources to local public-private partnerships to conserve fish habitats. The program was first proposed in legislation co-authored by Sen. Cardin.
CBF President William C. Baker said:
“This is a critical moment for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. The ACE Act will help save the Bay! Bravo, U.S. House and Senate.”
“The Chesapeake Bay Foundation thanks House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Rep. Elaine Luria, House Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force Co-Chairmen John Sarbanes, Bobby Scott, and Rob Wittman, and Ranking Member Tom Carper and Sens. Ben Cardin, Shelley Moore Capito, and Chris Van Hollen for their tireless work to ensure the future of these vital water quality restoration programs.”
CBF Federal Executive Director Jason Rano added:
“We’re pleased to see the overwhelming and bipartisan support for the America’s Conservation Enhancement Act. Legislators from both parties recognize the importance of clean water and a healthy environment. For us in the Chesapeake Bay region, the importance of the reauthorization of and additional funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, as well as extending the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program, creating the Chesapeake WILD program, and reauthorizing the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, are significant investments in clean water for future generations.