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VA - Guest Opinion: Congress should back Billion for the Bay Initiative

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf and other mid-Atlantic governors and leaders recently submitted this letter to Congress seeking funding for Chesapeake Bay restoration.

We write today to request your support for a bold plan to stimulate state and local economies in the Mid-Atlantic region and restore America’s largest estuary — the Chesapeake Bay. Our proposal is the Billion for the Bay Initiative: a significant and much needed infusion of new funds that will jumpstart the final phase of Bay restoration and put people to work building clean water infrastructure, including green infrastructure that will reduce stormwater and agricultural water pollution, the restoration of natural landscapes, and helping us adapt to the impacts of climate change.

We face a 2025 deadline under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) to meet pollution reduction goals that will ensure clean water in the Bay and its tributaries across six states and the District of Columbia. While we are making great progress and appreciate recent increases in funding for the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, the lion’s share of fiscal responsibilities for these efforts falls on our jurisdictions. As you know, state and local government budgets have been hit hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it much more difficult to afford wastewater treatment plant upgrades, enhanced stormwater management systems, stream, forest, and wetlands restoration, and agricultural best management practices necessary to restore the Bay. Many individuals, including farmers and ratepayers who must share in the cost of these upgrades, are also struggling.

The specific benefits of the Billion for the Bay Initiative are two-fold:

1. Enhance and maintain efforts to meet the 2025 deadline for Bay cleanup

Each of the Bay states and the District of Columbia have developed a jurisdiction- specific Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) identifying the most strategic practices and geographic regions for investment. In addition, our unique partnership has prepared a separate WIP to tackle pollution flowing over the Conowingo Dam. Distribution of the Billion for the Bay dollars should reflect our established priorities and can be distributed through existing programs within the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation that have proven track records of success. This initiative would leverage significant state and local funding and energize private capital through conservation financing to support cost-effective, long-term environmental solutions.

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