In December of 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act (CBARA) into law. This act requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit an annual report on federal and state funding toward environmental restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. During its first three years, only those programs that cost at least $300,000 must be reported.
In December of 2016, the OMB issued its first Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut, which indicates state and federal partners invested $1.8 billion in environmental restoration in fiscal 2016. Due to data uncertainties and constraints around time and resources, the estimates this crosscut provides may differ from the funding that ultimately supports environmental restoration. For instance, because fiscal 2016 totals were reported before the end of the fiscal year, these totals may reflect only a partial snapshot of program implementation.
Investments in restoration benefit all watershed states and support fishing, tourism, recreation, real estate, agriculture and shipping economies. An analysis from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for instance, found that putting the “pollution diet” in place—which is just one piece of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement—would provide annual benefits worth $129.7 billion: more than 70 times the investments cited in the 2016 Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan highlights some of these economic benefits. In 2011, for instance, the commercial seafood industry accounted for $3.61 billion in sales, $890 million in income and an estimated 66,000 jobs in Maryland and Virginia. In 2006, wildlife watchers spent $636 million in Maryland, $969 million in Virginia and $1.4 billion in Pennsylvania. And each year, the 8.5 million acres of cropland in the watershed generate more than $10 billion in agricultural production.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut, five of the seven agencies that make up the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay—including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense and the Interior—invested $536.4 million in watershed restoration in fiscal 2016. This is about $15 million greater than the obligations of fiscal 2015 and $46 million greater than the fiscal 2017 President’s Budget. More information about how these federal agencies allocated these funds can be downloaded or found in the Spending Crosscut.
More than two-thirds of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency funds are directed toward state governments, local governments and other partners to help them meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Additional funding from the agency supports the operation of the Chesapeake Bay Program office; the coordination of data collection and scientific research, monitoring and modeling; reporting on the quality of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; and outreach to enhance environmental stewardship.
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service funds conservation easement programs and provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and other private landowners to support the implementation of conservation practices on working lands. The U.S. Forest Service provides technical assistance and project funds to promote the establishment and retention of forests on non-Forest Service lands (through the Forest Stewardship Program), in urban areas (through the Urban and Community Forestry Program) and on conservation easements on forest land (through the Forest Legacy Program). It also provides for the management of National Forests. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, Farm Service Agency, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Office of the Chief Economist provide additional watershed support.
Under the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funds scientific research in the fields of tidal and coastal fisheries and aquatic habitats (including oyster reefs) and syntheses and analyses to predict and describe ecosystem processes. The agency also funds the development of environmental science education programs, the delivery of advice and technical assistance to decision-makers, the maintenance of the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) and the preparation of coastal communities in protecting natural and manmade infrastructure.
The U.S. Department of Defense funds regional operations and maintenance that support the prevention of stormwater runoff, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, water quality monitoring, land conservation, natural resources planning and management, and environmental outreach and stewardship. Under the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports small- and large-scale studies and design and construction projects that benefit habitats and fisheries.
Under the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey funds the generation of scientific information about fish, wildlife and their relation to water quality, habitat and land conditions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds strategic conservation to connect people with nature and create sustainable watershed capable of supporting fish, wildlife and plants. The National Park Service funds the protection of habitat, the creation of public access and the promotion of tourism.
While the Departments of Homeland Security and Transportation do support restoration in the watershed, their activities did not meet the definitional limits of this crosscut and were not reported. More information about federal funding to support restoration in the watershed can be found in the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut.
The seven watershed jurisdictions—including Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—reported investing an estimated $1.23 billion in watershed restoration through state programs in fiscal 2016. This marked a slight increase from the estimated investments of fiscal 2015, and is $252 million below the estimated fiscal 2017 budget of $1.54 billion.
In 2016, watershed jurisdictions also received an estimated $34.8 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through Section 117 of the Clean Water Act and an estimated $10.8 million through Small Watershed Grants and Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants. These grant funds are currently administered and leveraged by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
A call for funding data to support the next Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut is expected to be made in 2017.