WASHINGTON -- The federal government's support for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay would increase markedly under a bill introduced yesterday by Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., and Representative Roy P. Dyson, D-Md.-1st.
The measure would earmark $20 million a year -- $7 million more than the U.S government currently is spending -- for research, monitoring and coordination with state-level agencies, Mr. Sarbanes said in announcing the bill on the west steps of the Capitol.
"There has been enormous progress made in the restoration and enhancement of the bay, but much more needs to be done," Mr. Sarbanes said, flanked by a dozen politicians from three states and by two owls, a red-tailed hawk and a stuffed striped bass.
"It begins to move us into addressing -- from the federal level -- some problems that have not been part of the federal agenda," Mr. Sarbanes said. He was referring to new money for drafting a regional plan to reduce toxic chemicals flowing into the bay and for creation of a computerized data base of the bay's condition.
Though the proposed $20 million is dwarfed by the $128 million that Maryland alone spent last year on bay-related projects, state officials said they are happy to have federal cooperation.
"This will help fill in the gaps," said Torrey C. Brown, state natural resources secretary. "And it says, most importantly, that the federal government is still in there with us. It's only a few millions, but the consequences could be in the billions."
Charles Fox, legislative director of the Environmental Policy Institute, was less enthusiastic: "It's a good first draft, but it's not exactly a bold initiative."
The Washington-based group hopes that Congress will enact stronger enforcement legislation against bay polluters.
The new bill -- actually an amendment of the federal Water Pollution Control Act -- would continue $10 million in grants to Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia, as well as the $3 million that the Environmental Protection Agency currently spends on the Chesapeake Bay cleanup program. It would add:
* $3 million a year for the EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish local Chesapeake Bay offices to research the bay and its watershed.
* $2 million a year for the EPA to come up with a plan to eliminate toxic pollution in the bay.
* $2 million annually to develop a computerized data base of the bay's living resources, land use on its shores and sources of polluted storm water runoff.
Congressional sources say that Chesapeake Bay programs are politically popular and that the bill has a good chance of passing during the next session of Congress beginning in January.