Chesapeake Bay-area lawmakers today announced that they are seeking federal legislation that will increase federal spending for the Chesapeake Bay restoration campaign by more than 50 percent to $20 million a year over the next four years.
The measure would provide an additional $7 million a year for research and monitoring, for cleaning up toxic pollution and for dealing with the environmental impact of development and population growth in the bay region.
At a news conference on the Capitol steps in Washington, Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., said the bill would put into law many elements of the current bay cleanup. It would formally recognize the interstate agreement signed in December 1987 by officials of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to oversee the restoration effort.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer said the bill, dubbed the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act of 1990, represented a consensus among state and federal officials and environmental groups about the future direction of the bay cleanup effort.
Sarbanes and Rep. Roy Dyson, D-1st, are expected to introduce the legislation this week.
Supporters of the measure acknowledge that they face an uphill fight, since Congress is struggling to trim the deficit.
"This is not a good time to get additional money," said Fran Flanigan, director of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, a federally funded citizen group. But, she said she thinks the cleanup deserves additional federal help because the bay is of national importance.
Ellie Falk, spokeswoman for Schaefer, said Maryland has boosted its spending for bay cleanup from $72 million three years ago to $128 million now. Federal funds would supplement its efforts, she said.
With Congress due to recess next week, supporters say they hope to get the bill adopted next year as part of the overall review of the federal Clean Water Act.
In addition to the $13 million allotted yearly as the federal share of the bay cleanup effort, the new bill would provide an extra $3 million for bay research and monitoring. The bill would assign the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to coordinate those efforts with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The bill also would put $2 million into an interstate strategy for reducing toxic pollution of the bay and $1 million for carrying out an interstate plan for preserving and restoring living resources in the bay.
The bill offers another $750,000 for collecting and analyzing land-use trends around the bay and for projects aimed at curbing urban and suburban storm water runoff into the bay.
The bill has been revised, and in some cases toned down, since it was first circulated by Sarbanes' staff last June. The bill initially required EPA to study the effects of acid rain on the bay and to study pesticide use and storm water runoff, but those provisions were not included in a more recent summary of the bill.
Supporters, however, stressed the legislation had the backing of bay-area lawmakers and of environmental groups. Such consensus frequently requires compromises, they said.