WASHINGTON – President Clinton’s proposed budget for fiscal year 1997 includes a small increase in funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup programs.
“We thought the big news was level funding, but actually it’s a small increase,” said Peter J. Marx, a spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency.
Clinton’s budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 proposes $21.1 million for the Bay, or $400,000 more than the ’96 level, Marx said.
A large portion of the funds go directly to state governments, for projects to reduce nutrient runoff from farmers’ fertilizers and to pesticide management.
The additional funds are earmarked to deal with the effects of air pollution on the Bay.
Using computers, the EPA has found that about 30 percent of the nitrogen found in the Bay comes from the air, Marx said.
When there are too many nutrients – nitrogen and phosphates – in the Bay, plankton multiplies, dies, and sinks to the bottom of the Bay, killing important underwater grasses that provide food and habitat for marine life, Marx said. The grasses also play an important role in the “cleansing process” by absorbing nutrients, he said.
“Our biggest concern in the Bay are nutrients,” he said.
Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest, an Eastern Shore Republican, applauded the president’s proposal to add funds to the air cleanup. “It’s a very positive thing,” he said.
He said sometimes the air is so dirty you can see it.
“Seven out of 10 mornings that I drive across the Bay, from the southern horizon to the northern horizon, I see a brown, orangy, ruddy-colored cloud. Sometimes it’s very distinct. Sometimes it’s very scattered,” Gilchrest said.
The Chesapeake Bay program is a cooperative partnership between the EPA; the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the District of Columbia; and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body. – 30 –