State and federal governments would receive new enforcement powers and funds to clean up the Chesapeake Bay - but would also have to meet firm deadlines to act - under proposed legislation released Tuesday by Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin.
Cardin, chairman of a subcommittee that oversees the Environmental Protection Agency's bay program, said the bill would give states more authority to regulate runoff and provide more than $1.5 billion in new funds to clean up urban and suburban storm water, a growing and costly source of pollution fouling the Chesapeake. The bill also requires all restoration efforts to be in place by 2020 - five years earlier than the deadline recently agreed on by bay leaders - and calls on the EPA to take over for any state that doesn't do what's needed.
The Maryland Democrat unveiled his bill on the eve of the scheduled release today of a series of recommendations by Obama administration officials for jump-starting the lagging bay cleanup. Cardin's bill would vastly increase the amount of federal funding authorized to support the bay restoration, currently budgeted to receive $35 million over the next year. The legislation would provide legal backing to the recent decision by state and federal officials to ban the introduction of Asian oysters in the bay, and would expand efforts to eradicate nutria, a non-native rodent that destroys marshes by devouring wetlands vegetation. The measure also would impose a moratorium on industrial harvest in Virginia of menhaden, a small fish caught for its oil that is also a main food source for striped bass, or rockfish, the bay's premier food and sport fish.