June 14, 2018

Van Hollen Secures Bay Priorities in Senate Funding Bills

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced the inclusion of several Maryland priorities within the Senate Appropriations Committee’s release of two major funding bills. These priorities were included in the Fiscal Year 2019 Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill and the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. Most notably, Senator Van Hollen worked to secure full funding of $73 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which was cut by President Trump’s proposed budget.
“Investing in the Chesapeake Bay is vital for Maryland’s environmental and economic success. That means fully funding Bay cleanup programs – despite past attacks from the Trump Administration that would undermine those efforts. It means supporting farmers as part of the solution – which we recently did in the Senate-introduced Farm Bill. And it means protecting our oyster reefs, which improve water quality,” said Senator Van Hollen. “At every opportunity, I’m working with my colleagues on a bipartisan basis to protect and restore this natural treasure and to ensure it is able to support local jobs and recreation for years to come.”
Funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program will allow continued efforts to clean up the Bay, which are vital to Maryland’s wildlife and economy. Bay restoration not only supports Maryland’s environment but also the livelihoods of our watermen and Marylanders in the tourism and boating industries. The Chesapeake Bay Program partners with local communities across Maryland to achieve cleanup and environmental goals.
Senator Van Hollen also worked to include language to ensure the Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) is maintained and fully-staffed in Annapolis, Maryland – providing continuity in the program and its partnerships when the existing CBPO lease expires in 2019. This office is crucial to efforts to maintain and restore the Bay’s health, and it houses 30 full-time CBPO staff in addition to over 75 staff members from other federal agencies.
Finally, the bill makes critical investments in environmental programs to restore the Chesapeake Bay, provide outdoor educational opportunities, and protect marine life, including:
·         $71 million for the NOAA Sea Grant College Program – a $6 increase from Fiscal Year 2018 – which provides important returns to coastal communities across the country and was eliminated in the President’s budget. The National Sea Grant College Program is a critical source of funding for Maryland’s Sea Grant College at the University of Maryland, College Park. Maryland Sea Grant projects have produced significant results that aided fishers, businesses, policy makers, and conservation volunteers in Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region. Specifically Sea Grant Extension agents have helped develop oyster aquaculture businesses and a new certification program for professional landscapers to install effective stormwater control measures with native plants. They have also started five Watershed Stewards Academies, engaging the public and interfaith partners in Chesapeake Bay clean-up. Additionally, they have participated in teacher training to bring aquaculture education to our students and improve STEM education in biology, chemistry, and physics.
·         $5.524 million for the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office in Annapolis, Maryland. The office works with state and local governments, non-profit organizations, and private industry to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s unique coastal and marine habitat.
·         $15 million for the NOAA Marine Aquaculture Program. Aquaculture provides a source of economic development in employment, and growth of local industries, particularly in rural coastal and inner-city urban communities.
o   Including: $5 million for NOAA Oyster Restoration. This funding is essential to operate native oyster hatcheries, particularly in Maryland, as oysters are critical in keeping our oceans clean.
·         $7.5 million for the NOAA Bay-Watershed Education and Training Program (B-WET), which has been a critical tool in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. For example, the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland is currently using a 2016 grant to provide watershed education to approximately 5,600 Baltimore City school children. The curriculum will be able to be replicated in other urban areas using technical advice from the Aquarium. B-WET funds also help Maryland schools meet the environmental literacy graduation requirement and assist the state in implementing the environmental literacy goals of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement.
·         $28 million for the NASA Education Program, including funding for the NOAA Environmental Literacy Grants Program. This program enables NOAA, as the nation’s leading expert on weather, climate, and ocean information, to enhance informal education programs in science centers, universities, and museums across the country.
·         $54.5 million for operations and $2 million for construction at NOAA Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which conserve America’s national marine sanctuaries and their natural, historic, and cultural treasures. NOAA is currently considering a designation for Mallows Bay Charles County, Maryland. The site is ecologically significant as a habitat as well as historically and culturally significant, and has the potential to be a strong tourism asset in southern Maryland.
·         Language supporting the responsible development of renewable energy projects off the
Atlantic Coast and the existing offshore wind permitting process, which includes assessing impacts on fisheries and marine mammals. These projects will help Maryland lead the way in sustainable energy innovation.
·         $61.384 for NOAA Habitat Conservation and Restoration, which goes towards Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration at the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office (NCBO). The NCBO conducts work in fisheries, observations, education, and oyster restoration in support of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. Chesapeake Bay fish and shellfish play a critical role in the culture, economy, and ecology of the region. The office promotes ecosystem-based management through modeling, monitoring, and research to identify the most important factors influencing Chesapeake Bay fisheries.