Amendment to the Clean Water Act bolsters clean-up efforts with $1.5 billion in new grant authority and strong enforcement
Oct 20 2009
WASHINGTON – The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Act of 2009, which will be introduced in the U.S. Senate today by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) with original co-sponsors Sens.Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), reauthorizes the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program and gives state and local governments of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed expanded authority, $1.5 billion in new grant authorization, and strong new enforcement tools to help restore the Bay’s health.
Sen. Carper said: “The Chesapeake Bay yields more fish and shellfish than any other American estuary, providing jobs and supporting our regional economy. Although Delaware does not border the Chesapeake Bay itself, more than one-third of our state lands drain into it. That’s why we have a responsibility to work with our friends throughout the watershed to safeguard the Bay’s health. This legislation will build on the work we have done in Delaware, and will give Chesapeake Bay states like Delaware the resources we need to provide the right incentives to protect the Bay from multiple sources of pollution.”
Sen. Kaufman said: “This bill is an important step forward in cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. I am glad that, for the first time, we will set a firm deadline for all restoration efforts to be in place. While Delaware has made great strides in the past twenty-five years, much more should be done to reduce water pollution in the Bay. The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Act – which guarantees funding to headwater states like Delaware – will provide the necessary tools and federal funding to cause actual pollution reductions, both from agriculture and urban areas. By setting aggressive targets, this legislation charts a clear course to a clean Chesapeake Bay.”
With federal assistance, states will have the ability to set and meet enforceable targets of success by 2025. The bill also establishes a flexible pollution trading program designed to lower compliance costs while also providing Bay watershed farmers with added financial incentives to implement conservation practices. In addition, the bill puts the force of law behind a recent executive order from President Obama that requires every federal department to work toward Bay restoration.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, with a length of 200 miles and 11,684 miles of tidal shoreline, more than the entire U.S. West Coast. About 100,000 streams and rivers thread through the Chesapeake’s 64,000-square-mile watershed, which is home to almost 17 million people across Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The Chesapeake Bay supports more than 3,600 species of plants, fish and animals.
Companion legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives later this week by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).
The bill replaces section 117 of the Clean Water Act, which governs the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. Key provisions of the bill are:
The legislation gives the states of the Chesapeake Bay strong new tools to restore the Bay and for the first time sets a firm deadline of 2025 for all restoration efforts to be in place. The internal and final deadlines for action coincide with the Executive Council’s timeline for Chesapeake restoration. Unlike earlier, missed deadlines, this one will become a legally binding part of the Clean Water Act.
The bill also significantly expands federal grants. The Chesapeake Restoration bill authorizes a new $1.5 billion grants program to control urban/suburban polluted stormwater, the only pollution sector that is still growing. Grants to the states, small watershed organizations and for comprehensive monitoring programs are all newly created or expanded in the draft bill.
At least 10 percent of state implementation grants are set aside for New York, Delaware and West Virginia. These headwater states have never been guaranteed any access to these funds in the past.
At least 20 percent of the implementation grants are allocated for technical assistance to farmers and foresters to help them access Farm Bill funds and implement conservation practices on their farms.
The bill codifies President Obama’s Chesapeake Bay Executive Order, which requires annual Federal Action Plans across all federal departments to restore the Bay.
Other Provisions: Makes the ban on the introduction of Asian oysters statutory, but allows them to be studied in the Bay; continues and expands the nutria eradication program on the Delmarva; requires a study of the relationship between commercial menhaden fishing and water quality; and allows for citizen suits.
The basic structure of the Bay Program (a federal-state partnership governed by the Executive Council and administered by EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office in Annapolis) is retained.