Governor Ralph Northam and governors of other Chesapeake Bay watershed states are asking Congress for $1 billion to help meet 2025 pollution reduction goals. In a letter sent May 13, the officials say that their Billion for the Bay Initiative would help restore the bay and create jobs.
The letter states, “As you consider infrastructure and climate-related funding, we ask that you include the Billion for the Bay Initiative. This is an opportunity to achieve the long-elusive goal of restoring the Chesapeake Bay while creating significant new job opportunities, building resilience to climate change, and protecting landscapes and waterways across multiple states.”
Northam signed the letter along with Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, Delaware Governor John Carney, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Delegate David Bulova (D-Fairfax).
The letter lists funding needs including wastewater treatment plants, storm water management systems, stream, forest and wetlands restoration, and agriculture best practices.
In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency set an amount of pollution allowed in the bay. It’s up to the states to determine how they will meet those goals, and they must have those practices in place by 2025, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). In a May 13 press release, the CBF warns that the states are falling behind on the plan.
“The future of the Chesapeake Bay is now in jeopardy. Scientific recommendations to save it must be accelerated; if not, the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint will fail. The watershed states and their federal partners must increase investments to meet the 2025 goal. This is especially critical for Pennsylvania and New York, which supply 50 percent of the Bay’s fresh water, and the Bay’s pollution,” the press release states.
Part of the problem is that Pennsylvania has a self-identified shortfall of $300 million per year. “The vast majority of the pollution reduction needed must come from Pennsylvania,” the press release states.
“If in fact there’s going to be an infrastructure bill, the money could be well spent with efforts to clean up the bay, all the tributaries, with all the issues that still surround where we’re at. It would be a good investment, certainly better than many I could think of,” State Senator Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta) said.
Hanger is a member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. He said that upgrading storm water and wastewater infrastructure for many cities in the region would help reduce pollution in the bay, but the upgrades are expensive.
“Sometimes you’ve got antiquated infrastructure that’s leaking. I expect you’ve got wood pipes, wood troughs running, buried in places like Alexandria. All the creeks too. It’s just a matter of the concentration of population and the runoff that you get in rain events which creates a problem,” he said.
Both Hanger and the letter noted that improving the Chesapeake Bay pollution levels would help the economy as well.
“A clean bay will generate more than $22 billion dollars each year in new economic value from improved commercial and recreational fishing, reduced drinking water treatment costs, resilience to climate change, and improved property values and quality of life in the region,” the letter states.
Hanger cited a $10 billion estimate from a few years ago to clean up all the water flowing into the bay including creeks, streams, and tributaries along with needed infrastructure in cities.
He told The Virginia Star, “I think if the money is managed appropriately, a billion dollars could be easily spent in a cost-effective manner.”
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