Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Trump would kill Chesapeake cleanup; critics of plan said it could lead to similar Miss. R. work

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President Trump's proposed budget includes eliminating $73 million in annual funding to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, prompting an outcry from advocates and editorialists.

Will Baker, president of the nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said about two-thirds of the $73 million is funneled to states—New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia—and localities for specific pollution reduction projects, covering "a wide range of polluters, from farms to stormwater systems," Dave Mayfield reports for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk. "Much of the remaining money goes into federally supervised water-quality monitoring."

The Washington Post said in an editorial: "The administration’s proposed budget would, at a swipe, reopen the door to the degradation of the U.S.’s largest estuary and reverse important recent progress in restoring the water, fish, oysters, crabs and tourism that make the bay so vibrant. It was just six years ago that a third of the bay, from Baltimore to the Potomac River, was beset by a sprawling springtime 'dead zone' of oxygen-starved water—the result of marine-life-killing nutrients from fertilizer and other chemical runoff."

The editorial continues, "In the quarter-century or so before the Environmental Protection Agency launched a massive cleanup program in 2010, the oyster harvest had plummeted by 96 percent and the crab harvest by 60 percent. Starved for oxygen by runoff pollution, huge tracts of the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed were in a death spiral. "Some industrial farms, home builders and municipalities have resisted the EPA cleanup, regarding it as bureaucratic overreach," says the editorial. "They have said it amounts to an unfunded mandate saddling them with the costs of cattle fencing and other means of pollution mitigation."

The project has implications beyond the Chesapeake region. "From beyond the watershed, opponents feared it would become a template for even more ambitious actions by the EPA, including an effort to clean up the Mississippi watershed that might be expensive for major industrial polluters," the editorial notes.

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