Looking at Less

Nov. 29, 2017

It’s a situation many people, programs, and agencies confront year after year if they rely on government funding: just how big will our budget be? Which aspects of the program can we keep going, and what will need to be cut?

Those questions are looming now for a high-profile environmental effort, one that most acknowledge has been remarkably successful—EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program. For several years, the program has received about $73 million in federal funds, with much of that matched by the states surrounding the bay. The money has been used for urban stormwater measures, as well as for improvements in agricultural water quality, oyster reef restoration, monitoring, and research.

This year, as in other years, there are proposed funding cuts. As this article reports, the US House of Representatives has passed a budget reducing the amount by almost 20% to $60 million. In past years, the Senate has reversed cuts made by the House, and it may do so again this year, but some state officials are not as confident of that as they once were. For one thing, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Maryland), who was a strong supporter and a top member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has retired, which some believe weakens the chance to have the funding restored.

There will be a domino effect no matter what happens, with jobs at both the federal and state levels at stake—both those related to carrying out the environmental efforts themselves, and potentially those in industries like fishing and tourism that benefit from the ongoing cleanup of the bay. Some state programs, such as those run by Maryland’s Agriculture Department using federal grant money, have been especially instrumental in limiting the excess nutrients flowing into the bay from farmland. Many of the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed say they will not be able to meet their obligations under the Chesapeake Bay TMDL without adequate funding.

And yet, things could be worse; as one Maryland representative notes, “Most important is to maintain the $60 million figure, but it’s not always easy.” President Trump’s proposed budget in March had zeroed funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program entirely.

If your program has been—or is currently—in a similar situation, how do you prioritize efforts in the face of potential funding cuts?

About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.