Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) fisheries scientist Allison Colden testified in Congress today in favor of legislation to protect coastal habitats and expand scientific research and education in the Bay watershed.
Colden, CBF’s Maryland Senior Fisheries Scientist, appeared before the House Natural Resource Committee’s Waters, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee to discuss two bills critical to restoring the Bay and its tributaries and bolstering the region’s resiliency to climate change.
The first is the Chesapeake Bay Science, Education, and Ecosystem Enhancement (SEEE) Act, which would reauthorize the Chesapeake Bay Office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and authorize the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program.
The legislation has bipartisan support. Reps. John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.), and Bobby Scott (D-Va.) are the lead cosponsors of the legislation (H.R. 3540).
The NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO) brings the latest science, technology, and data to the table to protect oysters, blue crabs, striped bass, and their habitats. These fisheries are vital to the Bay ecosystem and the region’s economy. NCBO’s technical expertise and coordination is essential to implementing large-scale oyster restoration projects to boost the native oyster population and restore its capacity to improve Bay water quality, promote biodiversity, and support the region’s seafood industry.
Chesapeake B-WET is an environmental literacy program that provides the tools, resources, and funds for the next generation of Bay stewards to learn first-hand about the natural wonders of Bay watershed and how to protect it.
“Restoring the Chesapeake Bay has always been a bipartisan effort. At this critical time for the Bay cleanup effort, we encourage this committee’s swift passage of the SEEE Act to ensure NCBO continues to play a vital role in restoring the health of the Bay—its waterways, fisheries, and wildlife habitats—and meeting the commitments of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement by 2025,” Colden said in her written testimony.
Signed in 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement combines the pollution-reduction standards of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint with broader goals to ensure healthier ecosystems in the Bay and upstream, greater public access, and environmental literacy. It also includes a commitment to restore oyster populations in ten Bay tributaries by 2025. The six states in the Bay watershed and the District of Columbia are all parties to the agreement.
Colden also spoke in support of the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act (H.R. 4901), which would reauthorize the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (FWS) Coastal Program. The program enables the agency to partner with private landowners, community groups, Tribes, and state and local governments to conduct on-the-ground projects to conserve and restore coastal ecosystems.
Water, Oceans, and Wildlife Subcommittee Chairman Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) and Del. Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-P.R.) are the original cosponsors.
“While the FWS Coastal Program is focused on protecting and restoring coastal habitats for the benefit of wildlife, these actions also contribute to improving the health and climate resiliency of the Chesapeake Bay by improving water quality, reducing runoff, and stabilizing our shorelines,” Colden said.
Coastal wetlands provide food and habitat for waterfowl, migratory birds, fish, and shellfish that support our region’s multibillion-dollar commercial fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation industries. The ability of wetlands to protect coastal communities from extreme flooding and other climate change impacts is particularly important in the Bay region, a “hot spot” for sea-level rise.
Less than four years remain to achieve the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement’s goals of ensuring abundant life in a balanced ecosystem, restoring water quality in the Bay and its waterways, increasing resiliency to climate change and its effects, conserving economically and culturally valuable lands, and engaging local communities and students in Bay stewardship.
The SEEE Act and the Coastal Habitat Conservation Act are timely bills that would go a long way toward realizing the promise of the Agreement. CBF is proud to endorse them both.