If approved, the budget would slash funding for the program by 90 percent from its current level of $73 million to $7.3 million.
The program, whose funding comes from the Environmental Protection Agency, works to improve the health of the bay through enforcement of pollution reduction and grants for cleanup efforts.
It sets water quality health standards that states must work toward by 2025.
Those goals will not be met without funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, said Dave Nemazie, chief of staff at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
"I don’t think we would make nearly as much or as fast progress," said Nemazie. "If we don’t reduce the inputs of nutrients and sediment we will continue to be impacted by dead zones in the bay."
I see very little direct influence of the money spent by the Bay Program on the "dead zones". In most years, the weather predominates; a wet spring brings a lot of nutrients into the bay, fuels the blooms, and sets the stage for the hypoxic "dead zones." The Bay Program has made some inroads on nutrient pollution, but it continue to do so with a fraction of it's current budget.
The proposed cut is the latest in a pattern of attempts to weaken the Chesapeake Bay Program, which have so far been thwarted.
Eastern Shore politicians and environmental groups strongly rebuked the funding reduction, saying it ignores years of progress and strong local support for the initiative.
"Despite the president’s obvious disdain for the program, the federal government must continue to be a reliable partner in this effort," said U.S.Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., in an emailed statement.
Six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed cooperate under the program umbrella. It's an area of 64,000 square miles that houses 18 million people.
So if every man, woman, child and illegal alien in the watershed would chip in $4 each annually, that would more than cover it. Unfortunately, many of them live far from the Bay, and have very little motivation to help.
Close to two-thirds of the EPA funding is doled out to state and local groups through grants, according to the Chesapeake Bay Program.
Grants can help farmers implement conservation projects, provide funding for local initiatives or aid in improving habitats for important bay animals.
In 2017, Maryland received the largest share of that grant funding at over $9 million, according to the latest available data from the Chesapeake Bay Program.
"This cut to EPA is really a cut to communities in Maryland that are trying to do the right thing for clean water," said Alison Prost, Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland executive director.
The very nature of the a program like that, spreading a lot of money around to a lot of different constituencies makes it very difficult to measure it's over all efficiency, and creates hundreds of dependent bureaucracies in NGOs, states and local governments, making it very difficult to eliminate. As Ronald Reagan said, the closest thing to eternal life is a government program
The program is one of a suite of environmental initiatives targeted for cuts in the proposal, with a total reduction of 31 percent to the EPA budget next fiscal year to $6.1 billion.
One of the stated goals of the budget is to "rebalance the power between Washington and the states."
The funds for many regional water bodies are cut completely, including those for the Long Island Sound, Lake Champlain and the Gulf of Mexico.
I don't expect to see even significant cuts in the programs, but I dearly hope the threat causes them to at least evaluate the value they are receiving for their money.
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