President Bush's 2005 budget proposal will request an unprecedented $10 million for competitive grants to reduce pollution entering the Chesapeake Bay. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Mike Leavitt, joined by Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich, announced the funding yesterday at the Chesapeake Bay Program Office in Annapolis, Md.
The $10 million will fund a regional pilot program implementing projects to reduce nutrient discharges to the Bay. The regional pilot funding is part of the President's budget request of $25 million for watershed initiatives. This is a $10 million increase over 2004 funding.
"This major increase in funding demonstrates the President's commitment to improving the quality of America's watersheds," EPA Administrator Mike Leavitt said. "The selection of Chesapeake Bay for this pilot reflects the urgent need to protect the health of this national treasure that just happens to be in our front yard."
"The Bay's health depends on federal support and the President's generosity here today demonstrates his serious commitment to a cleaner Bay," said Maryland Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. "This funding is a signal of the merit of a cleaner Bay, a message I will continue to take to Washington."
The Chesapeake Bay pilot is designed to encourage innovative projects wherein sewage treatment plants collaborate with non-point sources in the watershed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus loadings.
The Chesapeake Bay funding is being requested as a Blue Ribbon Panel prepares to begin deliberations next month on financing options for the bay's restoration. The Panel, created last month by state and federal officials on the Chesapeake Executive Council, is scheduled to report its recommendations by October of this year.
The financing will help support aggressive new goals set by the Executive Council to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay. Regional Bay restoration leaders have committed to dramatic reductions in nutrients and sediments entering the Bay, a major expansion of stream-side forest buffers and an initiative to more than double the protective and nurturing underwater grasses in the bay.
Pollution reduction plans and water quality standards being developed by bay region states and the District of Columbia will help guide efforts to attain the stringent nutrient and sediment goals set by the Executive Council.
The President's budget request will fund EPA's newly renamed Targeted Watershed Grant Program. Formerly called the Watershed Initiative, it is a competitive grants program begun two years ago to produce innovative strategies for protecting and restoring the nation's watersheds. The first round of grants were awarded last spring, with 20 watershed organizations across the country receiving nearly $15 million.