The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) thanked the House Appropriations Committee for approving two fiscal year 2023 spending bills that contain encouraging funding levels for restoring marine species vital to the Bay region’s economy and educating young people about the Bay and its tributaries.
The committee approved the fiscal 2023 Energy and Water appropriations bill by a vote of 32-24. The bill includes $3.5 million, the same amount President Biden requested, for the Army Corps of Engineers to carry out large-scale oyster restoration projects. The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement of 2014 calls for Maryland and Virginia to restore oyster reefs in 11 Bay tributaries (five in Maryland, six in Virginia) by 2025.
Restoring the oyster population is essential to saving the Bay. An adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. Oyster reefs also provide essential habitat to fish, crabs, and other marine life at the heart of the Bay’s multibillion dollar seafood economy.
The committee also approved the fiscal 2023 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill on a 31-24 vote. The bill would increase funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to conserve and restore marine species habitat nationwide to $57.5 million from $55 million in fiscal 2022.
Funds from this account support NOAA’s work restoring native oyster populations, improving the Bay’s resiliency to climate change impacts such as sea-level rise and coastal erosion, and managing important regional fisheries such as blue crabs and rockfish.
NOAA is part of the U.S. Commerce Department. NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office is a key federal partner in implementing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement to restore the Bay ecosystem. The Chesapeake Bay Office also administers NOAA’s environmental education program in the watershed.
The bill would boost funding for NOAA’s regional Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program to $9.25 million in fiscal 2023 from $8.25 million in the current fiscal year. The program operates in seven areas of the country, including the Chesapeake Bay.
Through Chesapeake B-WET, elementary and secondary school students in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia get outdoors to conduct their own research and learn about the interrelationship of water quality, fisheries, and the economy of the Bay region. Improving environmental literacy is an important component of the Bay Watershed Agreement.
Following the markup, CBF Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko released this statement:
“CBF thanks the House Appropriations Committee for its continued support of programs important to restoring oysters and other iconic Bay marine species, improving the region’s resiliency to climate change, and educating the next generation of Bay-savers.
“We are particularly grateful for committee’s proposals to boost funding for the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office’s work conserving marine habitats and promoting environmental literacy among young people. These increases are wise and timely investments in our region’s economy and the future of this national treasure.
“CBF appreciates the hard work of House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), committee Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Tex.), Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.), subcommittee Ranking Member Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio), subcommittee Ranking Member Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
“We also thank the Bay delegation’s members of the House Appropriations Committee, Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), David Trone (D-Md.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), and Ben Cline (R-Va.).”