Chesapeake Bay Program funding preserved in budget deal

Photo courtesy: Facebook/Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A $1.1 trillion budget bill that would keep the federal government running through September fully funds the program that has coordinated Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts for decades.

The bill contains $73 million for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, which President Donald Trump has called for defunding.

The program, formed in 1983, coordinates and monitors the efforts of the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia in meeting pollution reduction goals. It also doles out most of the money it receives in grants to the states and local communities for restoration projects.

Local groups are feeling a little bit of relief knowing the funding is in the bill.  Christy Everett, Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Hampton Roads, said, “Without these funds to localities and states and nonprofits, we wouldn’t be able to do the pollution prevention that we’re doing now and that we’re seeing so many signs of success.  So all of that project would pretty much stop if those funds don’t continue through that next fiscal year.”

President Trump’s proposed budget wanted to decrease the EPA’s funding by 31%, or $2.5 billion.  Local scientists say would significantly impact their work.

“To really do the work that we do and have done so well requires federal grants from the funding agencies that were on the chopping block,” said Dr. John Wells, Dean and Director of Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  “What this allows us to do is continue to compete for those dollars.”

Both Everett and Wells say they are still concerned, however, because this bill only provides federal funding through September.  “Fiscal year is very much an unknown.  There will be lots of discussion and action in Congress,” said Wells.

“I think we still have a large fight to get in front of us, but it’s a great sign,” Everett said.  “It’s a sign of encouragement that people are speaking on behalf of our waterways.”

The program has bipartisan political support, and Trump’s proposal earlier this year to cut its funding prompted an outcry from the environmental community.

The funding bill was passed in the house late Wednesday afternoon. The Associated Press reports the White House says President Trump will sign the measure.