WASHINGTON – The House and Senate have agreed on a proposal to give Maryland $12 million for water restoration projects in fiscal 1999, including $8.3 million for the first phase of the reconstruction of Poplar Island.
The fiscal 1999 energy and water appropriation bill, hammered out by a House-Senate conference committee, was passed by the House 389- 25 on Monday.
The bill could pass the Senate late this week but “will definitely pass” before Congress adjourns on Oct. 9, said Chris McCannell, a spokesman for Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Mitchellville.
The biggest Maryland project in the bill is the funding to begin restoration of Poplar Island in the Chesapeake Bay.
Sand and silt dredged from the bay’s shipping channels will be dumped between two containment dikes to rebuild the island, which once covered 1,110 acres. It has been eroded away and broken into pieces over the years until only a few acres remain today.
The project is expected to take about 20 years and cost around $433 million. The federal government will cover about 75 percent of the total cost for rebuilding the island, said Frank Hamons, manager of harbor development for Maryland’s Port Administration.
The first phase of the project, building the containment dikes, started this spring and should be finished by October 1999, Hamons said.
The conference report also appropriates funds for pollution and erosion control in the Anacostia and Potomac rivers.
The bill budgets $2.4 million for the Anacostia River and its tributaries to construct jetties, abutments and other means of flood and erosion control in the watershed. The project is aimed at restoring the river’s health, along with fish and wildlife habitat that has been destroyed by years of development, untreated sewage, surface runoff and seepage from industrial, agricultural and federal facilities in the watershed.
Another $300,000 is budgeted for continued study of the federal government’s impact on pollution in the Anacostia River. Many federal facilities are located along the banks of the river and the project aims to study ways the government can clean up the river and minimize pollution.
The lower Potomac estuary study will receive $500,000 for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to find ways to slow erosion, flooding and loss of fish and wildlife habitat.
The bill also budgets $750,000 for environmental restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay. That program, authorized in 1996, allows the corps to design and construct water-related projects in the bay, such as making beneficial use of dredged materials, creating artificial wetlands and removing barriers to fish passage.
“Overall, I was pleased that the bill did include several important projects for the Chesapeake Bay, including the North East River dredging, and the Chesapeake Bay environmental restoration program, which I fought to create in 1996,” said Rep. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville.
“This bill will go a long way in carrying out our vital national priorities such as food control, navigation and shoreline protection,” said Gilchrest.