November 17, 2017

Manchin, Capito, Others Introduce Bipartisan Chesapeake Restoration Legislation

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senators Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) joined several colleagues yesterday to introduce the bipartisan Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act of 2017. This legislation increases mandatory funding for the bay, strengthens the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCCP) and provides more opportunities for effective conservation efforts. Senators Capito and Manchin were joined by Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.). Congressman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) introduced the House companion measure.

“Since 2014, the Regional Conservation Partnership Program invested $19.1 million for 6 projects with 88 partners in West Virginia. These projects have improved water quality and benefited the wildlife in our streams and rivers in the Eastern Panhandle. Overall, these investments have improved water quality in the Chesapeake Bay, without placing an unfair burden on the state,” Senator Manchin said. “I’m proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, to provide partners greater resources and ensure we continue to restore the nation’s largest estuary.”

“The Chesapeake Bay headwaters in West Virginia sustain important ecosystems and play a vital role in our state’s economy,” Senator Capito said. “This bipartisan legislation will provide essential grant funding for West Virginia, which will go a long way in continuing our efforts to support the bay’s restoration and care, ensuring that it remains a vibrant natural resource for future generations.”

“Not only is the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, it’s also crucial to Maryland jobs and our economy,” said Senator Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and lead sponsor of the bill. “This bill will provide more resources for restoration efforts that are key to the Bay’s health. As we begin work on the Farm Bill, I urge my colleagues to seriously consider this legislation. This investment will help ensure that our Bay economy continues to thrive and that Marylanders and tourists can enjoy this treasure for generations to come.”

In the 2008 Farm Bill, Congress authorized the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative to provide assistance to agricultural producers to minimize excess nutrients and sediments in order to restore, preserve, and protect the Chesapeake Bay. On average, approximately $50 million was invested annually in the Chesapeake Bay through in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. In 2014, the RCPP was created in order to prioritize conservation resources that were previously handled by separate conservation programs such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Initiative. Unfortunately, under the RCPP, the Chesapeake Bay has received significantly less funding – averaging around $13 million annually.

The Chesapeake Bay Farm Bill Enhancements Act would help restore some of this much-needed funding by tripling the amount of mandatory RCPP funding available per fiscal year from $100 million to $300 million. The bill would also improve technical assistance for partners and prioritize projects that improve water quality and water quantity and implement multi-state watershed restoration plans.

The text of the legislation can be found here. A letter from groups supporting this legislation can be found here.

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