Cardin calls for continued, increased funding for Bay cleanup
Call for increase, not cut, in restoration funding
STEVENSVILLE — In the face of a potential drastic cut to federal funding to Chesapeake Bay programs, lawmakers gathered at Hemingway’s Restaurant on Kent Island to voice their displeasure with President Donald Trump’s proposed budget and gave credence to the importance of a healthy body of water.
U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., and Tom Carper, D-Del., joined by Maryland state Del. Sheree Sample-Hughes, D-37A-Wicomico, Salisbury Mayor Jake Day and Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William Baker, stood in front of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and urged colleagues and community members to speak out against the proposed $73 million decrease in Bay restoration funding.
Having been declared a national treasure by various presidents, Cardin said the “unique way of life” the Chesapeake Bay provides would be altered unless more attention is given to the environment.
Representing trillions of dollars to the economy, the Chesapeake Bay, which provides jobs and tourism and is “part of the character of our region,” Cardin said, needs to be protected in times of challenges.
While he served in the state legislature, Cardin said stakeholders were brought together and the Chesapeake Bay Program was developed because a need to gather all entities was vital in making progress in revitalizing the damaged watershed.
Not only concerned with the federal and state partnership and the president’s “skinny budget,” Cardin highlighted the attack from the administration on science, a key foundation to the Chesapeake Bay Program, he said.
“We need to make sure that we protect those waters that are coming into the Chesapeake Bay and the waters of the United States that affect so many areas around this country,” Cardin said.
When he served as governor of Delaware, Carper said the state became a better neighbor with Maryland after realizing the damages to the Bay it had contributed to through farm runoff. With loads of chicken farms comes loads of chicken manure, which in turn increases phosphorus and nitrogen levels of runoff leading into the waterways of the Bay, he said.
Working with farmers to mitigate the problem and contribute to restoring the water’s quality, the Nutrient Management Commission was created to oversee the plans, certifications and maintenance of manure spreading.
With the help of multiple states and regions, the Bay has improved, Carper said, and funding needs to be provided to continue the work. The proposed federal budget, he said, ends years of good work.
“Let’s walk away from what’s working in terms of climate change, let’s walk away from what’s working with respect to clean air and let’s walk away from what’s working with respect to the Chesapeake Bay,” Carper said of the administration’s approach to the Eastern Shore’s economic engine.
Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the Bay defines those who live in the region and is “central to our history, to our literature, to our culture and certainly to our economy.”
Baker emphasized the state and federal partnership throughout the years, spanning multiple decades, and how the Bay has responded from those collaborations.
“It’s working, it’s bipartisan, it’s noncontroversial, it’s science based and it’s a partnership,” Baker said. “The federal partner must not quit now. We must not let the federal partner quit right as it’s starting to work.”
Rather than cutting Chesapeake Bay restoration funding to zero, Baker wants to see an increase to the threshold for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Bay program to $100 million. He said those funds help pollution reduction projects on federal, state and local scales.
“Clean water is a right ... nowhere more important than here on the Chesapeake,” he said.
Sample-Hughes said, though environmental progress has been made, “we can’t rest on our laurels.” She said many understand the importance the proposed cuts would have, but it is equally vital to understand the unanticipated consequences of that action.
Referencing institutions of higher education throughout the region that use environmental data and other resources accrued through Bay programing, she said those places must be equipped with the financial resources and information.
The title of “Capital of the Eastern Shore,” Day said in referencing his town of Salisbury, comes not from ego but from pride. As one of the fastest growing job markets in the country, Day said that success comes from the town’s location and having residents who choose to live and play in a place that takes care of itself, “unlike it did for centuries, for decades.”
Though there have been good and bad, wet and dry years, Day said progress has been made in reducing bacteria, nitrogen and sediment into the Wicomico River. He said the programs are working and the trajector y of the Bay’s health is increasing.
“These cuts are reversing the tremendous environmental gains that we have seen, and this is the moment we should be doing more, not less,” Day said.
Day said absolutes only work in theoretical mathematics, and the deconstruction of Environmental Protection Agency funding and programing “is bad for the people of Salisbury, it’s bad for people of the Chesapeake Bay region, it’s bad for the people of Mar yland and Delaware, and it’s bad for America.”
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin speaks out against President Trump’s proposed defunding of Chesapeake Bay programs during a press conference at Hemingway’s Restaurant in Stevensville on Monday, April 17.