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Proposed federal budget reduces funding for Chesapeake Bay Program

President Trump’s recently proposed budget would reduce funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program from $73 million in FY 2017 to $5 million in FY 2018. In FY 2017, the largest portion of these funds were distributed throughout the Chesapeake Bay’s 64,000-square mile watershed in the form of grants to states, localities, nonprofit organizations and community groups.

Because the chief initiative for restoring water quality in the Bay is now undergoing its “midpoint assessment” (pursuant to Executive Order 13508 issued in 2009), the proposal to reduce program funding has come at a critical time. As part of this “assessment” all states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and the District of Columbia are expected to submit final Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to the EPA by the end of 2018. The purpose of these WIPs will be to demonstrate how all practices to improve water quality (such as stormwater best management practices) are to be put in place by 2025.

Because most requirements imposed upon states and localities for meeting water quality standards in the Chesapeake Bay are based in the Clean Water Act and affirmed by a series of court rulings, funding reductions in the Chesapeake Bay Program will not eliminate mandates upon states and localities to improve water quality.

The Chesapeake Bay Program was established in 1983 through an agreement reached among Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and U.S. EPA, which manages the program from Annapolis, Maryland. The program is overseen by the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council, which now consists of the Governors of all states in the Bay’s watershed (Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware, and West Virginia), the Mayor of Washington, D.C. and the EPA Administrator.

On matters affecting local governments, the Executive Council is advised by the 19-member Chesapeake Bay Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC), which is mostly comprised of elected officials from localities in the Bay states. Members of Virginia’s delegation to LGAC are Fairfax County Supervisor Penelope Gross, King George County Supervisor Ruby Brabo, Norfolk City Council member Andria McClellan, Harrisonburg City Council member Richard Baugh and VACo Director of Policy Development Larry Land.

At LGAC’s most recent meeting on March 23-24 in King George County, the President’s budget proposal was discussed at great length. The LGAC meeting was attended, with very active participation, by EPA staff responsible for managing the program. Over the next few months, President Trump’s proposal to reduce funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program will be debated in Congress. It appears that the EPA and state agencies are continuing their work.

VACo Contact: Larry Land, CAE

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