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Good News for the Bay!
When the President signed an Omnibus bill to fund the federal government through this fiscal year, he agreed to a $191 billion cut in his budget. There were many, many losers—but thanks to CBF, the Bay was not one of them!
U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, who led negotiations for the House, describes the bill this way: "The bill reflects careful decisions to realign the nation's funding priorities and target precious tax dollars to important programs where they are needed the most. At the same time, the legislation will continue the downward trend in federal spending to put our nation on a sustainable fiscal path."
In other words, in today's climate on the Hill if you are not at the table, you are on the table. Our Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint Campaign has increased our presence and our message in key congressional districts in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and we can report that in this year's federal budget many, many valuable programs were cut, deeply, but we and our allies on the Hill managed to ensure that key Bay programs were not on the table.
The top programs we focused on were the Chesapeake Bay Program, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, the USDA EQIP program, and the NOAA BWET program. Here are the highlights of what we were able to achieve for clean water:
- The Chesapeake Bay Program funds the Program Office in Annapolis, but the lion's share of funds go directly to grants and cooperative agreements to implement the Blueprint. Its budget last year was $57.3M. This year, it got $70 million—an increase of $12.7 million.
- The Clean Water State Revolving Fund is an important, flexible financing program that allows watershed states to provide low-cost loans to local governments for the priority wastewater and polluted runoff projects that are planned in the Blueprint. Its budget last year was $1.465 billion and the House wanted to cut it to an historic low of $689 million. It did not prevail. This year, the Clean Water State Revolving Fund got $1.448 billion, meaning our states will continue to get the clean water loans they need.
- USDA Environmental Quality Incentives Program provides the cost-share programs that help farmers install basic on-farm practices required in state Blueprint plans. This program was also spared—it is funded at $1.35 billion, which ensures our farmers will have strong federal support for clean water practices.
- And finally, $7.2 million was provided for the Bay Watershed Education and Training Program, a program that supports important environmental education work around the watershed.
We'd like to extend a special thank you to Senator Barbara Mikulski for her leadership as Chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
And, most importantly, we'd like to thank you all of you who have been working so hard to speak out for the Bay. Looking at the federal budget numbers, we are clearly defying the odds on Capitol Hill. The next round of federal budget fights—for 2015—will start soon, and we can go into them confident that together, we can save the Bay!
Federal Policy Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation