U.S. Water News Online
BALTIMORE -- The omnibus spending bill President Bush
signed recently included cuts to programs critical to Chesapeake Bay
cleanup efforts, according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
The State Revolving Loan Fund, which provides communities with
low-interest loans for sewer-treatment plant upgrades, saw the
biggest cut, the foundation said. It found that funding under that
program for states in the bay watershed fell by $44 million, to about
$151 million for the 2008 budget, a 23 percent drop.
The watershed includes Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York,
Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
That decrease might mean some communities will do without those
upgrades, said Doug Siglin, federal affairs director for the
However, he notes the cuts come as states fund their own cleanup
"All the states are stepping up to the plate and coming up with
new money," Siglin said. "We have this agreement to clean up the bay
by 2010, and even though it looks like we're not going to make it at
this point, the states are still trying hard. The reductions in
federal money send their own signal -- that the federal government is
not a full partner."
Those making the cuts may have reasoned that state programs would
dull the impact of the cuts, said Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest.
"I think the cuts are significant, because it wasn't enough money
to begin with," the Eastern Shore Republican said. "When you consider
that the health of the Chesapeake Bay is being steadily, relentlessly
degrading because of human activity, what is needed is a huge influx
of several billion dollars."
The impact of those cuts could be softened by increases to
watershed conservation Congress will consider next year. The House
and the Senate versions of a farm bill include more than $150 million
in pollution-reduction programs.
Siglin hopes those increases will survive the reconciliation
process between the two chambers, but the president has threatened to
veto the bill.
While, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation will get more funding in the
bill, including $414,000 in new teacher-training money, Siglin says
it doesn't ease the pain of losing so much in the final bill.
A spokesman for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a state and federal
governmental partnership that leads bay cleanup efforts, said he had
not read the foundation's analysis and could not comment on it.
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