Cardin hosts restoration roundtable
Hosted by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, educators, researchers, nonprofit organization leaders and advocates of the Chesapeake Bay gathered for a discussion about improving the watershed.
GRASONVILLE — The 510-acre wildlife conservation site at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center created the backdrop for more than 30 Marylanders working to protect the natural world in the state to some degree Thursday afternoon, April 5.
Hosted by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., educators, researchers, nonprofit organization leaders and advocates of the Chesapeake Bay gathered for a roundtable discussion about what steps have been taken to improve the watershed and which areas need further improvement.
Cardin, speaking about the omnibus appropriations bill recently signed by President Donald Trump, said the Environmental Protection Agency was fully funded despite a proposed 30 percent cut in the president’s budget, a 6 percent increase in research funds, $73 million in funds for the Chesapeake Bay Program and and extra $3 million for National Parks Service programs and reversed the decision to move the Chesapeake Bay Office from Annapolis to Fort Meade.
Cardin said the Environmental Public Works Committee, which he sits on, unanimously authorized $90 million in funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program for fiscal year 2019 negotiations. Cardin said legislatures in Maryland always have had strong bipartisan support of the Chesapeake Bay Program.
“We have really strong representation for the Chesapeake Bay from this region,” Cardin said in reference to federal, state and locally elected officials on the Eastern Shore.
Though Cardin said the Bay was making improvements thanks to the cooperation between all stakeholders, organizations and policy makers, “waters in the U.S. (are) in serious trouble” as policies like the Clean Air and Water Act, coupled with the president’s lack of funding for certain environmental programs, puts those efforts in danger.
“Let’s be realistic: We need to develop strategies that can keep us focused on progress on the Bay,” Cardin said while committing to creating strategies to support the leaders sitting around the table.
Many of the experts and advocates thanked Cardin for his support of research and implementation funding. Those funding priorities were vital yesterday, are today and will be a year from now, one attendee said. Some of that research funding restored in the omnibus appropriations bill included funding NASA, which completes a range of research on the Bay.
Alan Girard with Chesapeake Bay Foundation said the improvement of the Bay is “not accidental,” as local government agencies and organizations have prioritized those efforts, including following and creating new best management practices.
Cardin said by far the fastest growing source of concern for Bay health is sediment runoff. Though it’s not the leading source of concern, he said, remedial action is expensive, so creating solutions continues to be crucial.
Some of those solutions, Cardin said, need to be incorporated into a larger overall plan, which isn’t to the level needed to continue making strides. Oysters, he said, have started to recover, but an overall plan has not been created to ensure its longevity.
Just as the state of Virginia has different plans than Maryland to address the Bay’s health and vitality, specific goals and objectives have been created that all sides work toward despite the specific programing used to achieve it. That same holistic approach, Cardin said, needs to be used to gather all stakeholders in the oyster industry to develop a plan that “make sense for Maryland.”
He said if more agreement can be found with what stakeholders want to see, “I think we can get strong participation at the federal level to help.” Cardin said oysters are critically important and an area where “we can make tremendous progress.”
Cardin said he didn’t feel enough consensus has been found on how to reach the oyster levels and Bay health desired. There needs to be unity amongst the stakeholders, he said.
Other areas of discussion included leveraging emerging technologies for larger yields, the importance of continued funding for conservation efforts and educational program funding.
U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., hosts a roundtable discussion with conservation leaders and advocates at the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Center Thursday afternoon, April 5.