Cardin pledges to fight for Chesapeake Bay funding

WASHINGTON — Elected officials in Maryland are banding together to fight to protect funding the helps pay for the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay.

“That would be horrible,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin of the Trump administration’s proposal to eliminate $73 million that the Environmental Protection Agency spends on the Chesapeake Bay program, designed to restore the health of the nation’s largest estuary.

“It’s certainly disappointing to see this in the president’s budget,” said Cardin.

The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates environmental recovery efforts by the six states that border the bay or that have major rivers that feed into it. The Trump White House calls it a regional effort that doesn’t deserve federal money. The new budget also proposes eliminating funding for a multistate effort to clean up the Great Lakes.

“This just makes no sense,” said William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

“You slam the door on a recovery — and that’s a recovery, which is still very fragile,” Baker said.

Baker spares no word when predicting what will happen without federal support for the cleanup.

“The bay will revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shellfish, and waterborne diseases that pose a real threat to human health,” he said.

Baker and Cardin were joined by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware, and several local Maryland officials to make their feelings known Monday morning at a news conference in Stevensville, on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“It’s somewhat shocking that it was done without any understanding of the importance of the federal role here,” said Cardin.

He was especially surprised after hearing that the new EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt, expressed support for the Chesapeake Bay Program during his confirmation hearings.

“He understood … the importance of the federal government’s coordination. So it seems to be inconsistent with what we heard coming out the administration.”

Cardin said he’s taking the fight to the halls of Congress lobbying his colleagues.

“I’ve helped organize the Bay state senators, in communicating with the appropriators, to make sure they understand the importance of the continuation of this program and its funding.”

Trump’s budget proposal outlines the new president’s policy priorities but Congress has shown little interest in supporting what amounts to a White House wish list.

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