(WASHINGTON, DC)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) welcomed today’s vote in the House of Representatives for fiscal year 2021 spending plans that include funding for oyster restoration through the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Bay watershed education program.
The fiscal 2021 spending levels were included in a package of six appropriations bills that passed the House by a vote of 217-197. The House has now adopted 10 of the 12 annual appropriations bills needed to fund the federal government next year. The Senate has not voted yet on any fiscal 2021 spending bills. The new fiscal year begins October 1.
The House legislation would provide important funding by allocating $5 million again in fiscal 2021 for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue oyster restoration and rehabilitation work that resumed this year after three years without funding. The House Appropriations Committee report accompanying the legislation contains language again this year supporting the Corps’ work on the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery program.
The bill would also add nearly $2 million to NOAA’s annual budget for oyster restoration and research activities nationally, bumping up funding for the account from $57.1 million this year to $59 million for fiscal 2021.
NOAA’s regional Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) program would also see a boost, from $7.75 million this fiscal year to $8 million in 2021. Administered by NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office, B-WET provides students and educators in the Bay’s 64,000 square-mile watershed with hands-on environmental education about the scientific value and wonder of the Bay ecosystem.
CBF Federal Executive Director Jason Rano issued this statement on the legislation:
“Oysters and oyster reefs are essential to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. They have enormous ecological value as natural pollution filters and habitat for marine life. Their economic value to the region’s multibillion-dollar seafood industry is immense.
“With oyster numbers at historic lows, CBF is pleased the House of Representatives recognized their importance to the Bay cleanup and economy by funding restoration work by the Army Corps of Engineers and NOAA.
“CBF also appreciates the House’s foresight in adding funds to educate the watershed’s next generation of conservationists through NOAA’s B-WET program. This program promotes hands-on environmental learning and directs much-needed resources to underserved school districts in low-income communities.
“CBF is extremely grateful to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and the Bay Delegation’s three Appropriations Committee members, Representatives Dutch Ruppersberger, Matt Cartwright, and Andy Harris, for their work ensuring the House provided additional funds for crucial oyster restoration and watershed education programs. We urge the Senate to follow the House’s lead investing in the Bay’s future.”