The Senate Appropriations Committee has finished work on a fiscal year 2024 spending bill with encouraging increases for important Bay programs and none of the devastating cuts and controversial policy riders in the House committee version. Senators voted unanimously, 28-0, to approve the fiscal 2024 Interior-Environment Appropriations bill yesterday.
The bill would fund the federal Chesapeake Bay Program at $93.5 million in fiscal 2024, a $1.5 million boost over its current budget of $92 million. It also includes the additional $46.7 million Program annual allocation authorized by the 2021 infrastructure law.
The EPA-led Bay Program coordinates the federal-state-local partnership to restore and protect the Bay and its waterways. More than two-thirds of Program dollars go directly to the six watershed states and the District of Columbia for grants to fund on-the-ground cleanup initiatives across the 64,000 square-mile watershed.
Within the Interior Department budget, the Senate Appropriations Committee measure would bump up spending on the Chesapeake Watershed Investment Landscape Defense (WILD) to $8.5 million from this year’s $8 million spending level.
The Chesapeake WILD grant program helps finance local habitat recovery projects such as restoring freshwater mussel habitat in Virginia, removing barriers to brook trout migration in western Pennsylvania, and creating new habitat for shallow water fish species on Maryland’s Kent Island.
After the bill cleared the committee, Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) Federal Director Keisha Sedlacek issued this statement:
“The Senate Appropriations Committee’s bipartisan consensus fiscal 2024 spending bill is a welcome change from the dangerous legislation the House committee produced.
“Senate appropriators wisely recognized that even when spending is tight, investing in the future of the Chesapeake Bay and its waterways will pay rich dividends for the region’s environment, economy, and more than 18 million residents.
“CBF urges the House to follow the Senate Appropriations Committee’s lead. Invest more in the Bay cleanup and drop contentious riders that will needlessly delay much-needed funds.”