Md., Va. governors ask president for bay funds

AP News
Posted: Dec 03, 2009 4:57 PM

Maryland and Virginia's governors told President Barack Obama $365 million a year in federal aid is needed to successfully implement the Chesapeake Bay restoration strategy he ordered earlier this year.

The governors sent Obama a letter last week saying they were grateful for his leadership on the issue, but "implementing that strategy and plan will require a significant investment in resources" and federal assistance is essential if it is to succeed.

The estimate, developed after a review of seven reports produced by federal agencies in response to Obama's executive order, includes $100 million a year for stormwater controls and stream restoration and $100 million annually for technical and conservation assistance for the agriculture sector. The letter also says $60 million a year is needed for land conservation and public access and $50 million for upgrades to Washington's Blue Plains sewage treatment plant.

The cost of upgrading the Blue Plains sewage plant alone is estimated at $3.2 billion over the next 10 years, the governors said.

The two governors said they recognize the federal government, like state and local governments, are facing budget constraints, but noted similar federal investments are being made to restore Florida's Everglades and the Great Lakes, and the investment would "would return enormous dividends to both the economy and the environment."

Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, and Lynda Tran, a spokeswoman for Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, said Thursday that the governors had not received an official response from the White House yet.

The letter also calls for $40 million in annual funding for habitat and fish and wildlife restoration, including oysters; $10 million for climate change preparedness; and $5 million for monitoring and accountability activities.

The letter comes as the federal Environmental Protection Agency is holding meetings throughout the region to increase public awareness of changes that will be needed to implement the plan. The meetings have prompted reactions ranging from those calling for stronger federal action to complaints about the effect it will have on sewage rates and agriculture.

A draft strategy released last month includes expanded regulation of large-scale animal farms and urban-suburban stormwater runoff, but leaves room for states to cut pollution before expansion of federal regulation.

Obama's executive order came after the Chesapeake Bay Foundation filed suit over the slow pace of restoration efforts and puts the federal government at the head of efforts previously led by the states, establishing a Federal Leadership Committee led by the EPA. Congress, meanwhile, is working on a reauthorization bill for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the joint state-federal program that has led bay restoration efforts.