In December of 2014, President Barack Obama signed the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act (CBARA) into law. This act requires the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit an annual report on federal and state funding toward environmental restoration in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Under this act, the OMB was required to include all Chesapeake Bay restoration activities that cost at least $300,000 during the first three years (2014-2017). Starting in 2018 and for every year thereafter, the report must include all Chesapeake Bay activities that cost at least $100,000.
In November of 2020, the OMB issued its fifth Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut, which indicates state and federal partners invested almost $1.6 billion in watershed restoration in fiscal 2020. Due to data uncertainties and constraints around time and resources, the estimates this crosscut provides may differ from the funding that ultimately supports environmental restoration. For instance, because fiscal 2020 totals were reported before the end of the fiscal year, these totals may reflect only a partial snapshot of program implementation.
Investments in restoration benefit all watershed states and support fishing, tourism, recreation, real estate, agriculture and shipping economies. An analysis from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, for instance, found that putting the “pollution diet” in place—which is just one piece of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement—would provide annual benefits worth $129.7 billion: more than 86 times the investments cited in the 2020 Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut.
NOAA’s Fisheries Economics of the United States Interactive Tool highlights some of these economic benefits. In 2017, for instance, the commercial seafood industry accounted for $3.1 billion in sales, $872 million in income and an estimated 30,000 jobs in Maryland and Virginia. According to the National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation Report, wildlife watchers spent $483 million in Maryland, $959 million in Virginia and $1.3 billion in Pennsylvania in 2011.
According to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut, six of the seven agencies that make up the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay—including the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security and the Interior—invested $505 million in watershed restoration in fiscal 2020. You can download more information about how these agencies allocated these funds or open the Spending Crosscut to review the caveats that may be associated with the totals federal agencies reported to the Office of Management and Budget.
Federal agency spending for watershed restoration in fiscal 2020 marked a 3.6% increase from the obligations of the previous fiscal year. In fiscal 2020, the EPA received an increase in funds for the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants and Small Watershed Grants; and new funding for the Most Effective Basins Grants. This total is 30% greater than the fiscal 2021 President’s Budget.
More than two-thirds of the $85 million U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Chesapeake Bay Program funds are directed toward state governments, local governments and other partners to help them meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL) and the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The remaining Chesapeake Bay Program funds support the operation of the Chesapeake Bay Program office; the coordination of data collection and scientific research, monitoring and modeling; reporting on the quality of the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem; and outreach to enhance environmental stewardship. Additional Environmental Protection Agency funds are directed toward jurisdictions through non-point source grants, pollution control grants and infrastructure assistance grants.
Under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Natural Resources Conservation Service funds conservation easement programs and provides technical and financial assistance to farmers and other private landowners to support the implementation of conservation practices on working lands. The U.S. Forest Service provides technical assistance and project funds to promote the establishment and retention of forests on non-Forest Service lands (through the Forest Stewardship Program), in urban areas (through the Urban and Community Forestry Program) and on conservation easements on forest land (through the Forest Legacy Program). It also provides for the management of National Forests. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Agricultural Research Service, Economic Research Service, Farm Service Agency, National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Office of the Chief Economist provide additional watershed support.
Under the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration funds scientific research in the fields of tidal and coastal fisheries and aquatic habitats (including oyster reefs) and syntheses and analyses to predict and describe ecosystem processes. The agency also funds the development of environmental science education programs, the delivery of advice and technical assistance to decision-makers, the maintenance of the Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS) and the preparation of coastal communities in protecting natural and manmade infrastructure.
The U.S. Department of Defense funds regional operations and maintenance that support the prevention of stormwater runoff, upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, water quality monitoring, land conservation, natural resources planning and management, and environmental outreach and stewardship. Under the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers supports small- and large-scale studies and design and construction projects that benefit habitats and fisheries.
Under the U.S. Department of the Interior, the U.S. Geological Survey funds the generation of scientific information about fish, wildlife and their relation to water quality, habitat and land conditions. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funds strategic conservation to connect people with nature and create sustainable watershed capable of supporting fish, wildlife and plants. The National Park Service funds the protection of habitat, the creation of public access and the promotion of tourism.
While the Department of Transportation does support restoration in the watershed, its activities did not meet the definitional limits of this crosscut and were not reported.
The seven watershed jurisdictions—including Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia—reported investing an estimated $1.1 billion in watershed restoration through state programs in fiscal 2020.
State program spending for watershed restoration in fiscal 2020 was a 4.3% increase to the obligations of the previous fiscal year. This total is 0.5% less than the estimated fiscal 2021 budget.
EPA Grant Funding
In addition to receiving funding from other federal agencies, in 2020 watershed jurisdictions received an estimated $39 million from the EPA through Section 117 of the Clean Water Act, which includes implementation and regulatory and accountability grants and specific funding directed to Watershed Implementation Plans, local governments, monitoring and sub-awards for green infrastructure and tools to aid jurisdictions in prioritizing preservation. Watershed jurisdictions also received an estimated $17 million through Small Watershed Grants and Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants in 2020. Approximately $1.2 million of the 2020 Small Watershed Grants funds were re-directed from the Pennsylvania implementation grant for local government projects in Pennsylvania. These EPA grant funds are currently administered and leveraged by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.
A call for funding data to support the next Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut will be made in the summer of 2021.