It is labeled as the "Chesapeake Bay Program," but it means clean water for Pennsylvania. That's why we're alarmed by the proposed federal budget that would eliminate all funding for this critical program.
Though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's budget is not at stake, we're concerned about the fate of EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program because it plays an important role in coordinating and sustaining the federal/state partnership to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. Most of the Bay Program's $73 million budget is distributed as grants to the Commonwealth and other states and Washington, D.C. to develop and implement pollution-reduction plans.
But where exactly does the money go and how does it support clean water? In Pennsylvania, Bay Program support goes to state and county agencies and nonprofits to help farmers and municipalities in designing and installing measures to cut down on polluted runoff. Bay Program money also provides fundamental support for water quality monitoring of rivers and streams feeding the Bay.
If this money is lost, projects likes these could be at stake:
- A development of a cost-effective regional polluted runoff-reduction effort in York County.
- Restoration of the drinking water in the Octoraro Reservoir through work with Plain Sect farmers in Lancaster County.
- Reduction of flooding and polluted runoff into the vulnerable and world class trout fishery, LeTort Spring in Carlisle, Cumberland County.
Those efforts are paying off. Monitoring of water quality shows pollution is going down. The Bay and its rivers are streams are the cleanest they've been in decades.
But the proposed federal budget threatens to derail this success. The crippling effect that eliminating the Bay Program would have on pollution-reduction efforts in Pennsylvania is unacceptable and cannot be allowed to happen.
We urge you to make it loud and clear to Congress that clean water counts in Pennsylvania. Join more than 25,000 concerned CBF members, and sign our petition urging Congress to keep the Chesapeake Bay Program fully funded. If you've already done so—great! Please go one step further and call your members of Congress to let them know how important it is to fully fund the Bay Program. Click here to find phone numbers.
Pennsylvanians are already standing up for clean water. Actions like this are so important because losing significant investments from the Chesapeake Bay Program couldn't come at a worse time for Pennsylvania. While our rivers and streams are cleaner, the progress is tenuous, and the Commonwealth is facing significant state budget shortfalls.
But clean water is good for Pennsylvania's economy. A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint would increase the value of the Commonwealth's natural benefits by $6.2 billion a year.
Roughly 19,000 miles of Pennsylvania rivers and streams are fouled by pollution. Without critical support from the Chesapeake Bay Program, progress will be reversed. Our economy, our health, and our quality of life will suffer.
—Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director
To say that now is the Chesapeake Bay's moment in time has never been more true. Take action right now to urge Congress to reject the proposed federal budget and protect our Bay and rivers and streams.
Since the release of the federal budget proposal to eliminate all funding for EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, we've been getting a lot of questions about what the cuts could mean for Virginia and for CBF.
Though the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's budget is not at stake, we're concerned about the fate of the Chesapeake Bay Program because it plays an important role in coordinating and sustaining the federal/state partnership to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams. This funding is critical to keeping Virginia waters clean. For starters, Bay Program funding has supported dozens of projects across the state that help clean up our local waterways, often via grants through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. For example:
- In the Shenandoah Valley, Trout Unlimited is restoring habitat for native brook trout.
- In Hampton, CBF and our partners are improving the health of the Hampton River by restoring oyster habitat, installing rain gardens, and engaging the community.
- In Richmond's Southside, CBF worked with a local church to build a massive vegetable garden that is irrigated by rain water harvested from the roof. The project provides fresh produce in an underserved community and transforms the property so that pollution no longer enters local streams that flow to the James River.
EPA's Bay Program also provides about $9.3 million annually to the Commonwealth for programs that develop and implement clean-up plans to reduce pollution and monitor progress towards cleaner rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Removing this funding would put human health at risk by adding pollution to our waters. Virginia's already tight budget can't absorb those cuts, which could eliminate enforcement and accountability of laws that protect local water quality.
A 2014 economic analysis found that fully implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint would increase the value of Virginia's natural benefits by $8.3 billion annually. In many ways, Virginia has the most to gain economically from a restored Bay.
Support for the Bay Program crosses party lines. Republican and Democratic members of Congress from Virginia recently asked the president to support full funding for the Bay Program and both of Virginia's senators have urged leaders in Congress to reject the cuts.
Across the state, Virginians are concerned about the implications of these cuts. Even Virginians who largely support the administration's proposed budget are against slashing Bay Program funds. Just take a look at the Richmond Times Dispatch editorial, headlined Trump is right on the budget but wrong on the Bay.
The efforts coordinated by the Bay Program are working. We're seeing clearer water, more oysters and crabs, and more underwater grasses. There's still time to let Congress know that you do not support these cuts. Already, more than 25,000 passionate CBF supporters like you have taken action calling on Congress to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. If you haven't signed our petition yet, please do so now. If you have—great! Please go one step further and call your members of Congress to let them know how important it is to fully fund the Bay Program. Click here to find phone numbers.
—Rebecca LePrell, CBF's Virginia Executive Director
To say that now is the Chesapeake Bay's moment in time has never been more true. Take action right now to urge Congress to reject the Trump Administration’s budget proposal and protect our Bay and rivers and streams.
Last week, the Trump Administration issued a preliminary budget that eliminates all funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a critical part of the state/federal partnership to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams.
But what exactly does the Chesapeake Bay Program do, and how does potentially gutting it affect the health of the Bay?
The CBP is an unusual entity. It's an arm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but also a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies involved in the work of restoring the Chesapeake Bay, as well as a host of academic and non-profit partners. You can think of it as a large and diverse group working together, organized and partially funded by EPA. And it is responsible for hundreds of actions in the field that help Save the Bay, from rebuilding wetlands, to restoring oyster beds, and so much more.
That leads me to the Five Reasons the Chesapeake Bay Program Is Critical to Saving the Bay:
- It's working! At a time when we seem increasingly at odds about how to solve complex problems such as health care or terrorism, the unique collaboration to restore the Chesapeake is making concrete progress. Less pollution is entering the Bay, underwater grasses are thriving in certain areas, the dead zones of low oxygen are shrinking. The crab population is healthy. Even oysters are enjoying a modest comeback. But the recovery is fragile. The Bay Program is the glue holding it all together.
- The Program is really a family affair with partners sharing the wealth. The majority of its $73 million annual budget is distributed to the partner states, local governments, colleges, and non-profits for the work they do. They plant trees along streams, build "green infrastructure" in cities and suburbs to slow down and soak up polluted runoff, and help restore and protect oyster reefs. They increase public access to waterways, create habitat for crabs and rockfish, and work with farmers to reduce pollution from manure and fertilizer. The list goes on.
- We have the best scientific information and tools, thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Program. Like a sick patient, the Bay needs a scientific diagnosis and treatment. The Bay Program is the doctor of the Chesapeake. It coordinates the monitoring of water quality, the computer modeling of Bay health and progress, and the rest of the science. Eliminating the program would be like throwing away the patient's medical records.
- The partnership helps keep six states and the District of Columbia on track to meet their obligations in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This is the regional plan to restore the Bay. After several decades of failed attempts to meet restoration goals, the jurisdictions agreed in 2010 to hold themselves accountable for reducing pollution in amounts set by science, and to report on their progress every two years. This accountability mechanism is working, with nitrogen pollution falling in nine main tributaries. Eliminate the Bay Program and you could stop this progress.
- The Bay Program takes the broad view. Its scientists and planners can see, for instance, how the entire region is developing, and inform individual states for their own land protection strategies. This is especially important for areas downstream of development, since pollution is likely to increase from growth. The Program also tracks how the region is doing to restore fisheries, and the habitat that crabs, fish, and oysters need. In an ecosystem of 64,000 square miles, it is critical to know how the whole system is functioning. No state alone can do this—only the Chesapeake Bay Program.
The Chesapeake Bay Program has been called a model of cooperative federalism, the system of government established in the American Constitution. It is the federal and state governments working together to solve a regional problem. Rather than eliminate it, we should be supporting it.
—Tom Zolper, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations
To say that now is the Chesapeake Bay's moment in time has never been more true. Take action right now to urge Congress to reject the Trump Administration’s budget proposal and protect our Bay and rivers and streams.
The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.
I'm angry and I'm upset. President Donald Trump has proposed something terrible. I'm not willing to trade a healthy Chesapeake Bay for a wall on the Mexican border.
Trump's budget proposal zeroes out the EPA's funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program: from $73 million to $0. You don't have to take my word for this: Please read the president's statement at the top of "America First, A Budget Blueprint to make America Great Again," then skip to page 41.
The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure.
In the late 1970s, headlines declared that the bay was dying. Since then, government at all levels, business, and individuals have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to "Save the Bay."
The effort has been bipartisan and, when tested in federal court, declared a model of cooperative federalism. It's working. The bay is recovering, but our progress is fragile, and the Chesapeake is far from saved.
The road to recovery, while clearly laid out, will not be easy and needs strong federal participation. The EPA Bay Program makes grants to states and municipalities to reduce pollution, monitors water quality, and coordinates the state/federal partnership that is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The bay program's participation is absolutely essential.
Fortunately, there are checks and balances in our government. Congress appropriates and passes the budget, and we have time between now and the new fiscal year (which starts on Oct. 1) to make sure Congress restores funding for the bay.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in Hampton Roads have a deep connection to the environment. The James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and the Lynnhaven Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay flow back and forth into each other.
We cross bridges and crawl through tunnels to get from one place to another. The water defines us.
We have celebrated recent signs of recovery in our waters. Oysters and crabs are rebounding, lush beds of underwater grasses thrive in some areas, and the water was so clear last summer that you could see the bottom six to eight feet below the surface. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's most recent State of the Bay Report gave the estuary its highest score in the report's 18-year history. But, that score, a C-, is a stark reminder that much work remains.
The bay's nascent recovery comes after years of hard work. In his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "Though this is a time of budget constraints, I have requested for EPA one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency. We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource — the Chesapeake Bay."
Since then, every administration has worked with the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Virginia Beach), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many similar organizations to "Save the Bay."
Trump's proposed budget zeroing out the EPA's bay program is an outrage. If passed by Congress, this could drive a stake in the heart of the Chesapeake's recovery.
Cuts to the EPA program could cause the bay and our rivers to revert to the national disgrace they were in the 1980s: fouled waters, sickly fish populations, and threats to human health. Zeroing out efforts to assist in restoring the Chesapeake Bay in favor of a wall makes no sense.
This is important. Please join me in sending a serious message to Congress that the Chesapeake Bay is a priority for Hampton Roads and the states all around the bay.
This is not about politics, it's about being good stewards of our environment. It's not about negotiating; it's a moral issue.
For assistance in contacting your congressional delegation please go to www.cbf.org/findmyreps.
—Harry Lester, Chairman, CBF Board of Trustees
More than 8,000 Bay lovers have taken action by calling on Congress to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so now. If you have already, thank you. Please be sure to go one step further and call your congressional representatives. Click here to find their phone numbers. A clean and healthy Bay now and for generations to come depends on your voice!
The following first appeared in the Bay Journal.
The Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint is working. By all metrics we are seeing progress. Citizens, businesses, and governments are working together to reduce pollution. You can actually see the progress in the clear water.
The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Bay Report Card issued last spring, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's 2016 State of the Bay report, and the Bay Program's Bay Barometer all document improvements. Bay grasses and crabs are up, and the dead zone is trending smaller. While celebrating progress, no one thinks the Bay is saved. Far from it. And, no doubt the recovery we do enjoy is fragile.
In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that citizens of all walks of life let their elected officials know that the need for clean water is a shared value and important priority. Cleaning up local rivers and streams will reduce risks to human health, create jobs, and benefit local economies.
We must insist that our state legislators make the needed investments to reduce pollution; that our governors speak up for the Blueprint; and that our federal representatives ensure the Environmental Protection Agency's full participation in guiding and implementing the Blueprint.
Elected officials do listen to their constituents.
Liz Worsham and her husband, Brad, traveled 70 miles from the Northern Neck to Richmond to meet with their state legislators. "We are concerned about clean water because we like to swim in our creek, for starters, and kayak and fish. My husband hunts. It's really important for the businesses in the area and for the watermen," Liz Worsham said. "This is a great opportunity to have an impact and express my views to my representatives."
The most effective way to be heard is to visit a politician in his or her office or to speak up at a town hall meeting. Politicians will take note.
Other effective ways are to write your representatives or call their district offices.
In these uncertain times, two facts are certain. One: The desire for clean water unites us, regardless of age or political persuasion. Two: Elected officials need voter support. We can make a difference.
I urge all Bay Journal readers to go on the record — our job of restoring the Chesapeake and its rivers and streams is far from done. We must push forward.
—Elizabeth Buckman, CBF Vice President of Communications
The following first appeared in the York Dispatch.
Now is the time for Pennsylvanians to stand up for clean water and let elected officials know they should make reducing pollution a higher priority.
Tell legislators considering budgets at the state and federal levels to follow-through with more investments in clean water that protect the health, livelihood, and economic welfare of every Pennsylvanian and those downstream.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's (CBF) State of the Bay report indicates that the Clean Water Blueprint is improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but Pennsylvania's efforts lag far behind the other principle Bay states.
Unfortunately, the message hasn't changed much in recent years. Roughly 19,000 miles of the Keystone State's rivers and streams are harmed by pollution.
Agriculture is the leading source of water pollution, so Pennsylvania needs more acres of stream-side trees, fewer cattle in the streams, and healthier soils. But at the state level, Pennsylvania's investments in pollution reduction are an affront to all who care about safe water.
The proposed budget for fiscal year 2017-18 is the second consecutive plan since the Commonwealth committed to a new clean water strategy that does not include adequate investments in the right places and on the right practices to ensure Blueprint success.
General Fund support for the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has been cut by $94 million since 2002-03 and the agency has 800 fewer staff members.
Pennsylvania's investments in Growing Greener programs that support conservation districts, stream restoration, stormwater efforts and more, have gone down 75 percent in the last 16 years.
Reduced financial support for DEP, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, seriously threatens their abilities to assure public health and provide clean water that is the right of every Pennsylvanian.
The Environmental Protection Agency notified the DEP, and it should be a warning to Pennsylvanians, that because it lacks resources, the agency cannot enforce minimum federal safe drinking water regulations.
In addition to increasing support through in the General Fund, we urge state lawmakers to pursue additional sources of revenue, so the Commonwealth can meet the commitment it made to its citizens to help restore and protect our rivers and streams.
Ninety percent of Pennsylvanians who responded to a 2015 Penn State University survey said they support investments in saving clean water, forests, and farms.
Investments in federal Farm Bill programs also play a critical role in the ability of Pennsylvania farmers to reduce pollution, improve soil health, and make their farms more profitable.
CBF has joined the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, conservation districts, Audubon Pennsylvania and 500 other organizations nationwide asking members of the congressional Budget and Appropriations committees to reject calls for cuts to 2018 Farm Bill programs.
We expect Pennsylvania's own members of Congress to remember that clean water counts, and to likewise protect Farm Bill investments.
Clean water is a legacy worth leaving future generations. Legislators at all levels must remember that the health, way of life, and economic well being of every Pennsylvanian depend on it.
—Harry Campbell , CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director
The following first appeared in the Washington Post.
The Trump administration's plan to cut Environmental Protection Agency staff by a fifth and eliminate key programs raises troubling questions about support for the highly successful Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. The White House proposal would reduce annual funding for EPA's Chesapeake Bay cleanup project by 93 percent, from $73 million this fiscal year to $5 million in the next.
The project represents a unique state/federal cleanup plan begun in 2010. It is working: The Chesapeake is getting better, and each partner plays a role. The states developed and implemented their own plans to reduce pollution and restore water quality. The EPA's portion of the cleanup program coordinates the science, research, and modeling to implement the blueprint and makes grants that fund pollution reduction. Today, pollution is down. Jobs have been created, human health protected, and local economies improved. The Chesapeake Bay's "dead zone" where aquatic life cannot thrive is getting smaller; crabs, oysters, and underwater grasses are rebounding.
But the bay is far from saved. A budget cut of this magnitude would reverse that progress. Bay restoration efforts have a long history of bipartisan support. Our elected officials have consistently pursued a legacy of clean water. Let's make sure they succeed.
—Will Baker, CBF President
Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulations: How It Could Affect Chesapeake Bay Restoration
On January 30, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order stating that whenever any federal agency issues a new regulation or policy, it must also eliminate two existing regulations or policies. Click here to read the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs. The order is written very broadly and could apply to every new or updated regulation or agency policy statement. The President also ordered that the cost of implementing new regulations or policies be zero.
How is this Executive Order potentially problematic for the Bay's cleanup plan?
Two federal laws provide the primary means for reducing Bay pollution: the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Congress empowered EPA to meet the requirements of these laws by developing regulations after considering public and state input. Many of those regulations must be updated from time to time to meet changes in technology that can further reduce pollution or to reflect new scientific knowledge.
Following the Clean Water Act, EPA worked with the Bay jurisdictions to determine how much pollution was safe for people and all the life within the Bay, including rockfish, crabs, oysters and other species, many upon which we depend for food and jobs. The states developed plans to meet those pollution limits for sources within their borders. We call the federal pollution limits and the state plans, together, the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. The deadline for completing the Blueprint is 2025.
In 2017, the pollution limits that are a part of the Blueprint, are due to be updated. It is possible that the update will be covered by the Executive Order. If this occurs, EPA would have to eliminate two existing regulations and ensure that the cost of meeting the new Blueprint pollution limits is zero. Given the amount of pollution to be reduced over six states and the District of Columbia, it would be extremely difficult for EPA to meet that test. EPA therefore could decide to not update the Blueprint, which would limit the effectiveness of the states' plans and lead states to potentially not meet the 2025 deadline.
Even if the Blueprint is not covered by the Executive Order, certain Clean Air Act regulations essential for the Bay's recovery are subject to the order.
The Blueprint recognizes that millions of pounds of nitrogen land directly in the Bay from air pollution. That nitrogen comes largely from burning fossil fuels to, for example, provide electricity and power our cars. The Blueprint provides that new Clean Air Act regulations would limit nitrogen from those sources. Some of those regulations must be updated. Because of the order, however, EPA may not improve those rules and the amount of nitrogen from the air may not be decreased sufficiently to meet Blueprint goals and a restored Bay.
Blueprint success depends upon EPA's ability to fulfill its obligations under these federal laws. However, there are many different ways the order could limit EPA's ability to act—and make it harder for Bay states to hit their pollution-reduction goals. Because, in addition to its legal implications, the Executive Order contradicts the essential partnership that EPA entered into with the states through the Blueprint. The states are relying on EPA's help, and if this order leads EPA to act contrary to the partnership, it will make it that much harder for the states to clean up their local rivers and streams and the Bay.
CBF's legal and policy teams are monitoring the effect of the Executive Order and will take the appropriate actions if required to preserve the Blueprint and ensure Bay restoration.
—Jon A. Mueller, CBF Vice President for Litigation
The following first appeared in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Until last year, cattle would wade into streams and ponds to cool off on David Surratt's farm in the Shenandoah Valley. Unfortunately, this led to a host of problems. Trampled streambanks muddied the waters, while manure would flow downstream to the Shenandoah River. Calves would pick up infections from bacteria in the water, and two cows died after being stuck in the mud.
But all that has changed since Surratt placed three miles of fencing along the streams and ponds on Meadowdale Farm in Fishersville last year, a project supported by Virginia's agricultural cost-share program. Thirsty livestock now drink from several new watering stations across the farm installed as part of the project. The fences keep cattle out of the waterways, so water in the streams is now much cleaner. Importantly for Surratt, all calves were free of infections last year.
"It's really a win-win deal for us as well as the cattle," Surratt said. "Farmers have a responsibility to keep their cattle out of the streams and improve the water quality." State funding was key to making the project a reality. "There is no way I could have done it without the program funds, especially with cattle prices the way they are today," he said.
Addressing pollution from farms is the most cost-effective way to improve the health of local streams and rivers, as well as downstream in the Chesapeake Bay. It is also a key part of Virginia's plan to clean up the region's waterways under a federal-state partnership called the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The state cost-share program funds a variety of conservation practices that lead to cleaner waterways, from cattle fencing to planting trees along streams to protecting soil with cover crops.
But in order to maintain progress, Virginia's farmers need robust and stable state investment in both the agricultural cost-share program and technical assistance from the local Soil and Water Conservation District staff who help implement these projects. In recent years, funding for the program has seesawed dramatically.
Providing ample and predictable levels of funding helps give farmers greater confidence when they consider adding conservation projects. It also gives local Soil and Water Conservation Districts the infrastructure and resources to put practices on the ground. Consistency ensures the program is carried out as effectively and efficiently as possible.
This month Virginia's legislators are making funding decisions that will decide the future of farm conservation efforts. The Virginia Senate is proposing a total investment of $46 million in agricultural cost-share. While a decrease from last year, that level that would still lead to continued success.
A separate proposal being considered would bring together a group of stakeholders to determine how to best ensure consistent and reliable funding for agricultural cost-share. This common-sense next step is sorely needed in the face of significant funding fluctuations.
Without continued state support for agricultural practices, Virginia will not be able to meet goals it has set for reducing pollution to waterways by 2025 under the Clean Water Blueprint. While Surratt's project is already making a difference in local streams, the impact grows as more farms do their part. "This project would really work great if all the farmers pull together on this," Surratt said.
However, though many farmers are eager to participate, they need state support to install these projects. In fact, two years ago so many farmers signed up that Virginia is still working through the backlog. Without funding, these farmers will be left waiting another year to install conservation practices.
It is important that Virginia live up to the commitments made to both healthy waterways and its farmers. But the heart of the matter is the fate of our rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Our waters have been slowly and steadily improving, thanks to a host of efforts. People all across Virginia are starting to benefit.
Good farm practices could lead to native brook trout returning to streams in the Shenandoah Valley. In Richmond, locals and visitors enjoy swimming, fishing, and paddling on the James River since it has become much healthier in recent years. In Hampton Roads, efforts to reduce bacteria levels have allowed for the resurgence of the oyster industry in places like the Lynnhaven River.
But this recovery can easily be reversed. Supporting farm practices that reduce pollution will maintain momentum. Let your legislator know that the decisions being made now will help ensure successful farms and clean water for future generations.
—Rebecca LePrell, CBF's Virginia Executive Director & Kendal Tyree, Virginia Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts Executive Director
Virginian legislators are meeting this week to discuss investing in these critical clean water programs. Take action now to ask them to make the necessary investment in programs that keep the Bay cleanup on target.