WASHINGTON – The Washington Area Council of Governments passed a resolution Wednesday urging Congress and President Clinton to fully fund a Chesapeake Bay cleanup program.
The program is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency and received about $21 million in federal funds during the fiscal year ending in September.
“Simply trying to maintain this level is essential,” Allen said. “Were the budget situation different nationally, I would ask for more.”
The COG board members’ vote was 15-1. Mark L. Hoke, president of the Frederick County Board of Commissioners, opposed the resolution.
“All I voted against was enticing Congress to fully fund that particular program. We all know that the request always exceeds the dollars available,” Hoke said.
An annual funding bill passed last year by Congress but vetoed in December by President Clinton called for a 25 percent reduction in the EPA’s budget but specified that the Bay program be fully funded.
An EPA cut was incorporated into a stop-gap federal funding bill, effective through mid-March. The measure does not specifically exempt the Bay program from the cuts, Allen said.
“The practical effect of the current continuing resolution is a 25 percent reduction across the board,” he said.
The COG board wants the Bay program protected by Congress in the next funding bill.
A letter with the attached resolution will be sent to President Clinton and appropriate members of Congress within the next couple of weeks, said Karl Berger, a COG environmental planner.
An identical request was made in a letter last month addressed to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., and signed by all four Maryland GOP House members and a Virginia Republican congressman.
A spokesman for Gingrich did not return a call Wednesday.
Bowie Mayor Gary Allen, a COG board member and chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Local Government Advisory Committee, said the federal funds are important because “a small amount … leverages so much in the states and the communities.”
Allen’s advisory committee is working on trying to make local governments – 1,653 counties, municipalities, boroughs and townships in the Chesapeake Bay watershed area – more active in the program.
Fairfax City Mayor John Mason, a COG board member, gave examples of successful local government initiatives that have received federal funds. They include a Kenilworth Marsh restoration project in the District and habitat restoration work on Anacostia tributaries in Montgomery and Prince George’s counties.
Allen said of the $21 million total targeted for the Bay program in fiscal year 1995, $9.6 million was granted to the states. Nearly $7 million was awarded on a competitive basis to universities, nonprofit organizations and local governments, to support pollution prevention activities, volunteer citizen monitoring and public education and outreach. -30-