Va. senators Kaine, Warner urge Trump not to cut $73M Chesapeake Bay cleanup

Tamara Dietrich
Contact Reportertdietrich@dailypress.com
Kaine, Warner to Trump: Don't cut Chesapeake Bay annual cleanup from $73 million to $5 million

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are urging President Donald Trump to keep funding annual Chesapeake Bay cleanup at the current $73 million rather than slash it to the "draconian" $5 million reportedly contained in the president's proposed fiscal year 2018 budget.

In a letter to the president Wednesday, the Democratic senators expressed "deep concerns" over this cut and others that reports indicate the administration is seeking at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

"We believe these cuts would be incredibly shortsighted," the senators wrote, "and would endanger the years of progress that have been made in restoring the health of the Chesapeake Bay."

Kaine and Warner also called the bay "an essential economic engine" that supports thousands of jobs in fisheries and tourism and generates millions in revenue each year.

"We are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of such a significant and jarring cut in funding," the senators wrote.

The bay is the largest estuary on the continent. Its 64,000 square miles cover portions of six states and the District of Columbia and support a rapidly growing population of about 18 million people.

But the Chesapeake has been polluted for decades by wastewater and runoff from agriculture and development. In 2010, after bay states failed for years to clean up the watershed, the EPA instituted and began managing a "pollution diet."

Since then, scientists say, cleanup measures adopted at the state and local levels and largely funded by EPA through the Chesapeake Bay Program regional partnership are starting to make the bay healthier.

As a candidate, Trump called EPA regulations job-killers and said he intended to reduce the agency to "little tidbits."

Last week, The Washington Post reported that his budget plan would drop EPA's annual funding from $8.2 billion to $6.1 billion, cut staff by 20 percent and grants to states by 30 percent, and eliminate 38 programs.

According to news reports, Trump's budget, if approved by Congress, would also slash cleanup funds for the Great Lakes by 97 percent, from $300 million a year to $10 million, for Puget Sound by 93 percent ($28 million to $2 million) and for the Gulf of Mexico by 78 percent ($4.5 million to $1 million). It would eliminate funding for the San Francisco Bay entirely.

Trump has said such cuts are needed to help fund his proposed $54 billion hike in defense spending.

He is expected to unveil his final budget next week. If the cuts remain, the plan is expected to face some push-back in Congress, where Chesapeake Bay cleanup has bipartisan support. Two weeks ago, 17 Republican and Democratic congress members from several bay states wrote Trump urging him not to cut funding for the bay.

Dietrich can be reached by phone at 757-247-7892.

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