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Cleaner Chesapeake Update: Where federal funds are flowing

Cleaner Chesapeake Update: Where federal funds are flowing
A peek at where federal Chesapeake Bay clean-up funds are going and not, from the viewpoint of a Choose Clean Water Coalition lobbyist.

Funding for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up is "a mixed bag". That's how Peter Marx, lobbyist for the Choose Clean Water Coalition, termed it in a recent blog.

The 2015 appropriations bill contained a historic high $74 million in funding for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. Within that appropriations line item, Congress increased funding for Small Watershed and Nutrient and Sediment Removal grant programs to $6 million each. The language also prohibited EPA from making unilateral cuts to these critical on-the-ground local restoration programs.

WANDERING POLITICAL-SCAPE: Federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up projects is subject to mid-stream priority changes.

The bill also offered level funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRF), which is critical for local governments to get low interest loans for upgrading water infrastructure, such as sewage treatment facilities and storm water controls. This funding was 23% above what was contained in the President's

FY15 budget request.

The U.S. Geological Survey's Chesapeake program, which provides much of the underlying scientific research base for restoration received at least the President's budget request.

Onward to FY16"
"This year, the Coalition is fighting some unusual funding cuts proposed in the President's budget," noted Marx. It cut funding requests to the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program and cut in half its two key local grant programs –the Small Watersheds and Nutrient/Sediment Removal grants in half.

The Coalition responded. You can read the House Interior Appropriations letter here and the Senate Agriculture Appropriations letter here. You can find all of the letters on the federal policy page

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The President's budget also again proposed cuts to the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The Coalition is again fighting to restore funding to this year's level.

For the first time, in Congressional appropriation process, there's a proposal to make the Rivers of the Chesapeake Collaborative Landscape Planning Project a national priority area. As part of that, the proposal lists 16 new land acquisition projects in the Bay watershed that will preserve natural landscapes and provide public access.

There is also a proposed $500k increase in the U.S. Geological Survey Chesapeake budget that will enhance land elevation and cover data to enhance the effectiveness of conservation practices throughout the region. There are a number of other funding requests, including U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs under the 2014 Farm Bill.

Note: The Choose Clean Water Coalition, headquartered in Annapolis, Md., claims more than 200 member organizations from the Chesapeake Bay watershed states, none of which are traditional farm organizations. On May 19 and 20, it will hold its annual conference at Harrisburg, Pa.

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