The Chesapeake Bay is an incredibly complex ecosystem that includes important habitats and food webs. Information about financing for the restoration effort can seem as complicated as the ecosystem itself. Funding comes from numerous federal agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations, and private interests.
Pollution loads in the Chesapeake Bay watershed comes from hundreds of wastewater treatment plants, thousands of farms, and the millions of people who reside and recreate in the watershed. A comprehensive restoration strategy such as the one pursued by the Chesapeake Bay Program may be the only effective way to address an expansive ecosystem that integrates developed areas, agriculture, and natural resources as thoroughly as in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Several federal agencies participate in the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. Many of the actions they are supporting in the restoration effort, as well as the resources planned for those actions, are described in the annual Action Plan and Progress Report required by President Obama’s Chesapeake Bay Executive Order. In their first Action Plan, federal agencies working together to implement the Executive Order detailed $491 million in fiscal year 2011 funding and activities dedicated to restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed, including meeting the specific goals set forth in the Executive Order strategy.
Among the restoration projects and programs identified for FY 2011: $72 million in financial and technical assistance targeted to help farmers implement voluntary conservation practices in high-priority areas; over $20 million directly to the states and the District to implement stronger regulatory and accountability programs to control urban, suburban, and agricultural runoff; and $30 million dollars for land protection. The Action Plan also includes projects to restore fish passage to 67 miles of streams and design more than 60 acres of oyster reefs for establishment in the Piankatank River.
The Clean Water Act, Section 117, provides authority for the Chesapeake Bay Program and directs the EPA to maintain a Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) and to coordinate many of the activities of the program. The CBPO is located in Annapolis, Maryland, and is supported and staffed by many federal and NGO partners.
Through an annual appropriation from Congress, EPA supports scientific, analytical, communication, outreach, and coordinating functions to make the Bay partnership work. EPA funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program Office has ranged from about $20 million annually in the 1990s to about $50 million in recent years. About 60 percent of this funding is provided annually to states, local governments, NGOs, academic institutions through grant programs.
Major components of EPA support for the Chesapeake Bay Program include:
Every two years, the six Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia will meet milestones for implementing measures to reduce pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus, with the first milestone on December 31, 2011. By meeting the 2011 milestones, an additional 6.9 million pounds of nitrogen will be reduced in the watershed, which is a 77 percent increase over the previous rate of progress. For phosphorus, an additional 463,948 pounds will be reduced watershed-wide, which is a 79 increase over the previous rate of progress. In their 2011 milestones, the states and the District predicted that they would spend approximately $2.4 billion to support their restoration efforts between 2008 and 2011. This spending is tracked through ChesapeakeStat, the Chesapeake Bay Program’s public website that promotes improved accountability, fosters coordination, and promotes transparency by sharing performance information on goals, indicators, strategies, and funding.
Over the years, several reports and organizations have attempted to catalog just what the costs of restoration are.