Govs. Hogan, McAuliffe Call on President Trump to Keep Funding Bay

Representatives from six Chesapeake Bay watershed states and Washington, DC signed a resolution Thursday in support of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership.

At the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Executive Council, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia joined repesentatives from Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to continue the current level of federal support, $73 million, for the Chesapeake Bay Program.

President Donald Trump's budget recommends eliminating funding for the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. But the Chesapeake Executive Council says, with Bay restoration making big gains, to cut funding now would waste decades of investments made so far.

Governor McAuliffe, outgoing chairman of the Executive Council, said, "In 2017, we met and exceeded our goals, which is truly extraordinary. But there is no chance without the funding that we would meet next year's goals."

Dr. Walter Boynton, who is a professor at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Chesapeake Biological Lab, presented some of the stunning progress he's seeing on the Bay. "It's the first time since Captain John Smith came up the Bay in 1608 that nutrient levels are finally on their way down."

Boynton says in 2016, there was no true "dead zone" in the Bay for the first time in 30 years.

He believes the restoration efforts are close to a tipping point. "A bit more effort will get a lot more mileage."

The executive council also unanimously elected Governor Hogan as their new Chair. Hogan said, "I pledge to be a fierce advocate for greater environmental progress and deeper collaboration upstream and throughout the Bay watershed."

Hogan reiterated, "It will take all of the Bay jurisdictions and federal partners to continue progress. We remain committed to continuing the fight to protect federal Bay funding."

He highlighted one problem he's making a priority: sediment that flows into the Susquehanna River from upstream states, and right into the Bay. The Conowingo Dam is meant to catch this sediment before it reaches the Bay, but the dam doesn't have the ability to trap it anymore. Hogan will hold the second Conowingo Dam Summit to discuss strategies for improvement.

Each Executive Council member went on to speak, including the Environmental Protection Agency's senior advisor to administrator Scott Pruitt, who assured the council that the EPA is on track with its commitments.

In a statement, Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker said, in part, “CBF applauds the Executive Council’s strong, bipartisan action to protect the successful Bay Partnership. Unless we want this to be the last Executive Council meeting and the end of this historic collaboration, we need to continue to resist actions from the Trump Administration that would undermine state efforts to save the Bay and our rivers and streams.

After all the progress made over the last 30 years, under the Trump Administration’s budget recommendation the Bay would revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shellfish, and water borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health." 

But not everyone feels Governor Hogan's actions go far enough. Nonprofit environmental activist group Food and Water Watch Maryland rallied outside the state house just before the meeting. They say Hogan needs to do more than sign a resolution as part of the Executive Council: he needs to call out the Trump Administration for making decisions that hurt Maryland.

Megan Viviano