The Chesapeake Bay restoration effort is expected to get increased federal funding this year, though less than advocates hoped for just months ago.
The $1.5 trillion “omnibus” funding package, which funds the federal government for the remainder of this fiscal year, was signed by President Biden on March 15 and will increase spending for the Chesapeake Bay program office. from the US Environmental Protection Agency in Annapolis to $88 million this year.
That’s up from $87.5 million last year, but is less than the $3 million increase requested by the Biden administration and many advocacy groups.
The Bay Program Office coordinates the federal-state partnership that conducts monitoring, computer modeling, and research efforts related to Chesapeake restoration efforts. More than two-thirds of the money goes to grants related to clean-up activities.
But the annual spending bill doesn’t paint the full picture of federal funding for the bay. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed by Congress last year provided an additional $238 million for the Bay program over five years – including $46.7 million this year – although the EPA has not yet determined how this money will be spent. Many other bay-related initiatives will benefit from the infrastructure bill, but most of those funding decisions have not been made either.
Meanwhile, this year’s omnibus spending package also included $4 million for the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Investments for Landscape Defense (WILD) initiative. This is a competitive grant program created in 2020 to support local efforts to conserve wetlands, reduce pollution, and restore fish and wildlife habitat. It’s the first time funds have been allocated to the program, but it’s less than the $15 million that supporters had hoped for.
“Thriving habitat is vital to the health of the bay’s watershed, and Chesapeake WILD will make much-needed investments in restoration projects throughout the region,” said Denise Sranko, federal executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. She added that the organization “can’t wait to see [Chesapeake WILD] Obtain a larger budget increase in fiscal year 2023 so that communities in the watershed can take full advantage of this new source of funding.
The spending package also includes a nationwide increase from $734 million to $760 million in funding to provide technical assistance to farmers who want to participate in U.S. Department of Agriculture conservation programs. Increased funding for such individual support to farmers is considered essential to boost participation in these programs.
The package also includes $2 million in land and water conservation funds to protect the Fones Cliffs, which are part of the Rappahannock River National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Fones Cliffs has been a high priority for conservation groups in recent years.
Reed Perry, director of external affairs for the Chesapeake Conservancy, called the site “a treasure and an important part of the ancestral lands of the Rappahannock tribe. This funding will help protect this iconic and endangered landscape and preserve a vital part of Chesapeake history and culture.
The National Park Service’s Chesapeake Bay Office will receive $3 million for its Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program, which provides financial and technical support for water access projects, educational programs and interpretation natural, cultural and historical resources of the bay.
Additionally, the Army Corps of Engineers is receiving $3.88 million for the restoration of Chesapeake Bay oysters in the Maryland and Virginia rivers.
The Corps is also receiving $30 million for Anacostia Watershed Restoration Work, which will be used to restore 7 miles of instream habitat, open 4 miles for fish passage and connect 14 miles to previously restored waterways in Prince George’s County, MD.