Lawmakers seek to protect funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration

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WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — Federal lawmakers are making a push to prevent major cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay restoration program.

President Donald Trump’s 2020 budget proposal threatens to cut the program’s funding by 90 percent, which legislators and environmental advocates say would threaten recent progress to improve the bay’s health.

“We’re seeing improvements,” Dr. Alison Prost said of the bay. “The dead zone’s getting smaller, the bay grasses are coming back.”

Prost, the executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says years of work could be put at risk if the proposed cuts take effect.

“Devastating to the communities working hard,” she added. “You have regulatory rollbacks to programs – fundamental clean water act programs – that help with the bay’s recovery, that help with the clean air.”

This is not the first time Trump has sought to cut the program’s funding. Congress has stepped in and restored it for the past couple of years.

Funding for the bay program was $73 million this fiscal year but the administration’s proposed cuts would water that down to just $7.3 million. 

“It could be catastrophic not having the federal government as part of this,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Maryland, said.

Cardin and Congressman Jamie Raskin, D-Maryland, said that while the bay’s health is improving, the work is far from finished.

“We’re talking about the largest estuary in North America,” Raskin said. “It’s the lifeblood of our state.”

Some lawmakers are encouraged that Congress won’t allow the budget cuts. They say the bay has always received support from both parties.

“It’s iconic in Maryland, and it’s a national treasure,” Cardin added.

However, the Trump administration says the federal government needs to spend its money elsewhere.

“There’s many different regional environmental programs that we’re encouraging states and localities to pick up the costs for,” acting White House Budget Director Russ Vought explained.

Vought said that Maryland and Virginia benefit most from the bay, so the states should foot the bill to keep it clean.

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