WASHINGTON -- Legislation that would more than double federal spending on the Chesapeake Bay clean-up program over the next five years was introduced in the Senate yesterday amid high hopes that some action will be taken this year.
The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act would provide $23 million for the current fiscal year -- an immediate increase of $10 million -- and raise it by $1 million a year for the next five years.
"This legislation will provide a much-needed boost to our efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and set the course for the restoration program to the turn of the century," said Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Democrat who was the bill's sponsor. He was joined by Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Maryland Democrat, Republican John W. Warner and Democrat Charles S. Robb of Virginia and Democrat Harris Wofford and Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.
The funds would be administered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the lead federal agency involved with the Chesapeake Bay program, and used mainly for research, management and state assistance grants.
But the legislation seeks also, for the first time, to increase the involvement of all 16 federal agencies and programs concerned with the bay -- organizations such as the Army Corps of Engineers, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service and the Federal Highway Administration.
The new bill differs from the one that died in the last Congress in several ways:
* Funding is increased;
* The program would run for six years instead of four;
* It seeks to curtail pollution from city streets, farms and other sources and focuses on containing runoffs into tributaries rather than focusing solely on the bay itself;
* It takes account of the latest Chesapeake Bay agreement signed between the bay states and federal authorities last August, which substantially revised the requirements for limiting nitrogen, phosphates and other nutrients that lead to oxygen depletion in the bay.
* It would require, for the first time, federal facilities within the Chesapeake watershed to review their operations regularly and avoid activities that harm the bay.