WASHINGTON – A group of Chesapeake Bay-area congressmen met with White House officials Wednesday to ask that $130 million be included in the fiscal 2006 budget for reducing bay pollution from farm runoff and wastewater treatment plants.
Members of the Congressional Chesapeake Bay Watershed Task Force — including Reps. Wayne Gilchrest, R-Kennedyville, and Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington — met in Gilchrest’s office with Marcus Peacock, associate director for the natural resources program at the Office of Management and Budget.
Gilchrest said the White House was very receptive to the task force’s proposal, which will be formally submitted Friday. That plan asks for $50 million for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, $75 million for agriculture programs and $5 million to improve water quality monitoring.
By providing a specific breakdown of costs and making the request early, Gilchrest said he thinks the task force is likely to get the full $130 million.
“We will have a leg up if we can show for every dollar you spend, you’re going to get $10 of water quality,” he said.
The money is needed to meet a goal of cutting annual nutrient runoff into the bay by 103 million pounds of nitrogen and 6.7 million pounds of phosphorous by the year 2010. That goal was set by the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Environmental Protection Agency.
Janice Graham, legislative chair for the Maryland chapter of the Sierra Club said the request was encouraging, but far too small to deal with the scope of problems in the bay.
“We’re grateful for any money we can get,” she said. “However, it’s not nearly enough to solve the kinds of problems we face with sewage treatment plants and agricultural runoff into the bay.”
Wastewater treatment plants and farms account for more than 60 percent of the bay’s nutrient pollution — usually nitrogen and phosphorus — according to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which based its information on EPA data.
An excess of nutrients causes algae blooms, which block sunlight to underwater grasses and deplete oxygen that many aquatic species need to survive.
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