The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) is encouraged by House passage of a $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 omnibus spending package that would increase funding for three programs integral to restoring the Bay, its tributaries, and wildlife habitat across its six-state watershed.
Although fiscal year 2022 began last October 1, federal agencies have been operating at fiscal 2021 spending levels because Congress failed to complete the fiscal 2022 budget on time.
The fiscal 2022 omnibus cleared the House last night in two separate votes. The non-defense portion, which includes funding for priority Bay programs, passed by a vote of 260-171. The defense portion passed 360-69.
Once enacted, the measure will increase the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program’s budget to $88 million from $87.5 million in fiscal 2021. The Program coordinates the federal-state-local government partnership to restore the Bay, conducts monitoring and scientific research, and helps fund restoration projects in communities across the watershed. More than two-thirds of its budget is used to fund cleanup activities.
The omnibus also includes $4 million for the new Chesapeake Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (Chesapeake WILD) program. The competitive grant program was created in October 2020 to support local efforts to conserve wetlands, reduce water pollution, and restore fish and wildlife habitat, but it was not funded in fiscal 2021.
Another CBF priority funded in the omnibus is technical assistance for farmers participating in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conservation programs nationally. The omnibus would raise the funding level to $760 million from the fiscal 2021 level of $734 million.
Helping farmers adopt conservation practices that improve water quality is essential to meeting the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint’s 2025 deadline. Yet technical help for watershed farmers has been declining, even though the need for it has never been greater.
CBF Federal Executive Director Denise Stranko released the following statement:
“CBF is pleased Congress increased the Chesapeake Bay Program’s budget for the third year in a row in the fiscal 2022 omnibus. The Bay states are running out of time to meet their pollution-reduction commitments under the Blueprint. More money for the Program should translate into additional resources for state cleanup efforts at this critical time.
“CBF is grateful Chesapeake WILD will get the funds to assist local habitat restoration partners, 18 months after this important new program was created. Thriving habitat is vital to the health of the Bay watershed, and Chesapeake WILD will make much-needed investments in restoration projects across the region. CBF is eager to see it get a larger budget increase fiscal year 2023 so watershed communities can take full advantage of this new funding source.
“The small bump-up in conservation technical assistance is a promising start. But with agriculture responsible for making more than 80 percent of the pollution cuts still needed to achieve the Blueprint’s goals, it falls well short of providing sufficient support to watershed farmers. CBF looks forward to working with Congress and USDA to secure game-changing new conservation investments in fiscal 2023, while there is still time.
“CBF thanks Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-Tex.) and all House Bay champions for their leadership increasing cleanup funding under challenging fiscal conditions. We urge the Senate to quickly pass this legislation and send it to President Biden without any further delay.”