Pa. officials critical over proposed Bay funding cuts

AFP Correspondent

HARRISBURG, Pa. (April 4, 2017) — Environmental, farm and government groups alike are concerned about the potential impact of the elimination of federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts.
President Donald Trump’s budget proposal slashes the funding of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay program. However, this budget blueprint must undergo the appropriation process with final approval by the U.S. Congress.
Accordingly, numerous officials who have worked intensively toward restoring water quality in the Bay are reaching out to public officials.
Patrick McDonnell, acting secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection, in a letter to Scott Pruitt, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, stated in part, “Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay program — which you recently acknowledged as a model of federal/state partnerships, and is starting to show real results in curbing pollution to the Bay — would see funding completely eliminated. This program would no longer be able to provide much-needed support to Pennsylvania small farmers and local governments to improve their local water quality.”
Pennsylvania’s governor, Tom Wolf, in a press release said the proposed budget would eliminate funding to restore the waterways, like the Susquehanna River, that feed into the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition, he noted that Pennsylvania had recently made tremendous strides in improving local water quality through this program, as acknowledged by the EPA.
Mark O’Neill, Director, Media and Strategic Communications, Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, offered, “It is important to recognize that the Trump administration’s budget blueprints for EPA and USDA are in fact proposals and are not final spending plans. Although the proposals are starting points for budget discussions, ultimately Congress writes the budget.
“Pennsylvania farmers (and farmers across the nation) are currently facing a variety of economic challenges, including depressed prices for milk, corn, soybeans and other food they produce. We don’t believe now is a good time to cut deeper into programs and services that provide some assistance to farm families, who are interested in developing projects and implementing best management practices that further improve soil and water quality.
“Farm Bureau will be talking with members of Pennsylvania’s Congressional Delegation about our concerns with the budget proposals through the appropriations process to ensure that key programs affecting farm families are adequately funded.”
Harry Campbell, Pennsylvania Executive Director, Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said, “The totality of these cuts can have a tangible and meaningful impact on the economy, the health and the quality of life here.
“The Chesapeake Bay Program has been a model of state and federal cooperation. It’s working to provide real and tangible returns for cleaner water.”
Pennsylvania has 19,000 miles of impaired waterways.
Many of them drain into the Susquehanna River, which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.
From its start in Cooperstown, N.Y., the Susquehanna River flows 444 miles. It flows about 18 million gallons per minute when it reaches Havre de Grace, Md., and into the Bay.
The Susquehanna River Basin drains 27,510 square miles of land, covering half of Pennsylvania.
It comprises 43 percent of the Chesapeake Bay’s drainage area. Half the freshwater in the Bay is from the Susquehanna.