Federal support essential to regional Chesapeake Bay restoration

Since a federal-state partnership took over restoration of the Chesapeake Bay, there have been improvements in many key indicators, including crab populations and water clarity. (© iStock)

Up until now, the Environmental Protection Agency has played a critical role in restoring water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Working with the six states in the bay watershed, the agency is a key player in the joint commitment to a science-based pollution reduction plan, known as the Clean Water Blueprint. Whether that program, which has enjoyed bipartisan support for years, will continue is now in question.

“The Blueprint is our best chance to, at long last, clean up the Bay and Bay watershed, which provide drinking water, food, jobs, and a beloved destination for millions of people,” said SELC attorney Kristin Davis. “And EPA is at the center of it all—coordinating science, research, and grants to help implement the Blueprint.”

The White House’s recently released federal budget proposal zeroes out the EPA’s share of this bay restoration work, $73 million. Those funds support grants to state and local government agencies and others for their cleanup work. It also supports better understanding of bay through study and research in the watershed.

And it’s working. Native aquatic wildlife like crabs and oysters are on the rebound. Underwater grasses are at their highest levels in decades, as is water clarity. With federal and state cooperation, and the hard work of citizens, businesses, farmers, and localities, the Blueprint restoration efforts are succeeding. Eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bay funding would cripple these efforts, carelessly wasting our opportunity to clean up the Bay.

The Trump Administration has said from its first day that it wants to strip longstanding federal environmental protections and turn them over to the states. Yet the recent trajectory of Southeastern states’ budgets and staffing show that the states are not positioned to take on these critical roles. Consider Virginia’s environmental budget, which dropped 54 percent from 2007 to 2017. That trend doesn’t bode well for Virginia’s ability to pick up the tab for pending Chesapeake Bay restoration work.

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