(Delmarva Now) -- The Trump administration is proposing a 90 percent cut in federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup, drawing rebukes from environmentalists who say it will cripple the monumental effort.
The president's 2019 budget recommendation, released Monday, slashes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's annual bay budget from $73 million to $7.3 million.
That would leave funding available for monitoring the cleanup's progress but none for restoration projects carried out by the District of Columbia and the six states in the watershed.
In 2017, the EPA dealt out $48 million to the states, including $13 million in Maryland.
While states also contribute millions of their own, the federal share helps ensure progress stays on track to meet the effort's 2025 deadline, supporters say.
“To lose funding for the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort would hinder the years of the progress that we have made to clean our local waterways,” said Jeff Hortsman, executive director of ShoreRivers, a Mid-Shore environmental group. “It would result in a loss of skilled environmental expertise and eliminate important jobs, both of which are necessary and vital to complete the bay cleanup."
The new budget puts environmentalists in much the same boat they were in last year when Trump's inaugural budget proposed eliminating the program's funding.
They are returning to the same argument: that deep cuts would undermine the effort at a time when positive results are just beginning to show.
“Today, pollution is down. Jobs have been created, human health protected and local economies improved. The dead zone is getting smaller; crabs, oysters and underwater grasses are rebounding," said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. "A budget cut of this magnitude would kill that progress."
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation President issued a statement saying "This is yet another assault on clean water from a president who campaigns saying he values it.”
Hampton Roads, Chesapeake Bay Foundation director, Christy Everett said: “we are close to having the Lafayette River restored as the first tributary in Virginia to be restored for oyster restoration.”
She said she's seen the difference the program funding has made here environmentally and economically.
“This funding needs to be restored because we benefit so greatly from it, and it’s working," said Everett.
In its own analysis last January, the environmental group assigned the bay a "health index" grade of C-minus, the highest score in the report's 18-year history.
Formal attempts to clean up the bay, America's largest estuary, date back more than three decades. But the work received a huge boost in 2010 when the watershed states agreed to put themselves on a "pollution diet" to limit further water-quality degradation.
Congressman Bobby Scott released this statement:
“Maintaining the health and quality of the Chesapeake Bay is a multi-state, bipartisan effort with widespread support. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is on track to bring the Chesapeake Bay’s waters to levels that are healthy for swimming and fishing by 2025. Unfortunately, President Trump’s budget would eviscerate the Chesapeake Bay Program’s funding. This would derail the entire timeline and increase pollution which will only destabilize our regional and coastal economy.”