May 06, 2020

Van Hollen Secures Maryland Priorities in Legislation Passed by Key Environment and Public Works Committee

Van Hollen Provision Will Allow Federal Assistance In Dredging Baltimore’s Inner Harbor

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) announced the passage of key provisions for Maryland within the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee’s package of water infrastructure legislation. The Senator, a member of the Committee, fought to include provisions that will allow federal assistance in dredging the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and increase authorized funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. The two bills passed by the Committee, and supported by the Senator, invest in water infrastructure and clean water initiatives across our country.

“Investing in our water infrastructure is crucial to the health of Marylanders and our economy. This bipartisan package includes funding to provide safe drinking water for our children, address toxic chemicals in water sources, prevent water pollution and wastewater runoff, and ensure a thriving Chesapeake Bay for generations to come. I also fought for a key provision that allows federal assistance to be used in dredging the Baltimore Inner Harbor, so the City can ultimately attract more events and tourism, driving economic revenue. I will continue working to push this legislation – and these important provisions – across the finish line,” said Senator Van Hollen. 

Senator Van Hollen fought to include provisions within this legislation to:

  • Allow the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the Baltimore Inner Harbor. The City of Baltimore hosts numerous historic and cultural events throughout the year, oftentimes involving the arrival of large ships. This provision allows for dredging in the Inner Harbor in order to accommodate the size of the ships requiring the channel depth to be approximately 26 feet. Since the last such major event six years ago, sediments have filled in the Inner Harbor so its current depth is just 20 feet. Using the Corps of Engineers Section 107 Continuing Authorities Program for Small River and Harbor Navigation Projects would allow for the City to host additional educational and cultural events for economic development purposes.
  • Increase funding for the Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan. The Senator worked to increase the per project total cost limit under the Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan from $5 million to $15 million for the Chesapeake Bay environmental restoration program. Additionally, he worked to increase authorized appropriations from $40 million to $90 million to carry out the program. These provisions will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to assist in projects related to the Bay and allow for more projects in the Bay Comprehensive Plan to be funded. 
  • Expand Sewer Overflow Grants. These grants are crucial to both urban and rural communities looking to improve their wastewater management.
  • Improve the health of the Anacostia River Watershed. As a major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay, improving the health of the Anacostia River Watershed is critical. The Anacostia River Watershed is located partly in Prince George’s County, Md.
  • Reauthorize the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. This program, created in 1987, provides crucial funds to Maryland and other states to improve their water infrastructure. Last year, Senators Van Hollen and Cardin announced that Maryland received $38.4 million from this program.

The legislation at large:

  • Authorizes a $18 billion national investment in Army Corps of Engineers water resource development projects across the country – from improving water infrastructure to investing in disadvantaged communities, replenishing beaches, and curbing the effects of climate change.
  • Improves access to clean, safe drinking water by addressing harmful contamination; invests in water infrastructure and climate resiliency projects in underserved communities; helps disadvantaged communities navigate the funding process and increase the availability of direct grants to ensure communities are no longer overlooked or disregarded; and, reduces harmful air pollution emissions from ports, which are often located near frontline communities.
  • Authorizes significant resources for communities facing existing and emerging contaminants, including sources of water pollution. The bill includes $300 million in grants to assist in the remediation of drinking water and groundwater contamination caused by emerging contaminants, with a focus on PFAS.
  • Protects water infrastructure from climate change and extreme weather and promotes ecosystem restoration.