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Trump’s proposed budget eliminates funding for Chesapeake Bay program

CHESAPEAKE BEACH, MD - AUGUST 03: Donnie Eastridge aboard the commercial crabbing boat "Foxy Roxy" pulls in a crab pot full of Blue Crabs and a few Sea Nettles (jellyfish) on the Chesapeake Bay August 3, 2005 in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. The Maryland Blue Crab has been in decline in recent years but crabber Bobby Abner of Abner's Crab House says this year the crabbing has been better than recent years. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

RICHMOND, VA. — In his State of the Union address in 1984, Pres. Ronald Reagan highlighted the need to clean up the Chesapeake Bay; a body of water encompassed by six states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, and the entire District of Columbia.

As he called for developing America’s next frontier – space—Reagan reminded Americans of “our responsibility to preserve our older resources here on Earth.”

“Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense,” he said.

It was a time of budget constraints, but Reagan requested one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency at the time, for the Environmental Protection Agency.

“We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource — the Chesapeake Bay,” he said.

Thirty-three years after Reagan’s address, the budget proposal unveiled by the President Donald Trump proposed slashing EPA funding by 31-percent. Trump’s budget also would end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the United States Institute of Peace, among others.

“Eliminating federal support to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, doing away with the Appalachian Regional Commission and slashing investments in community development, affordable housing, home weatherization, and heating assistance will do significant harm to Virginia families and our economy,” said Governor Terry McAuliffe, in response to the budget proposal.

Months before Reagan’s national address, the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed.

Since then the Bay program has been highlighted by the White House (under George Bush in 2005) and has been emulated worldwide. Last year, the program received $73 million in federal funds, most of which was distributed as grants to states, local governments and community groups for cleanup efforts.

Data generally shows decreasing long-term pollution trends from the Bay’s major rivers, though – according to the program itself — other key indicators are lagging. In a recent “State of the Bay” address, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation noted that the health of the Bay improved about six percent and scored a 34, or C minus, on its scale.  The goal is to reach a “40” by 2025 and ultimately, a “70” to “Save the Bay.”

Chesapeake Bay Foundation President William C. Baker issued a statement saying that “the EPA’s role in this clean up is nothing less than fundamental…it is critical.”

Thanks to an unprecedented partnership among elected officials, citizens and communities across our region, we are decades into a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan that is restoring our waters and enjoys strong bipartisan support. Eliminating funding for EPA’s Bay Program derails these efforts and directly undermines all that has been accomplished. For all of us who care about a restored Bay, healthy crabs and oysters, and healthy local economies, the Trump Administration’s budget is a clarion call to stand up and fight to save the Bay.

“There is the very real chance that if this budget were implemented, the Bay will revert to a national disgrace with deteriorating water quality, unhealthy fish and shell fish, and water borne diseases that pose a real threat to human health. Compare that to its current trajectory – a Bay teaming with healthy fish oysters and crabs; a Bay safe for children to swim in; a national model of a federal/state partnership heralded worldwide.

Outside of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Sen. Rob Portman [ R – Ohio ] also opposed Trump’s budget request to eliminate funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

“The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative has been a critical tool in our efforts to help protect and restore Lake Erie, and when the Obama administration proposed cuts to the program, I helped lead the effort to restore full funding,” he said in a statement. “I have long championed this program, and I’m committed to continuing to do everything I can to protect and preserve Lake Erie, including preserving this critical program and its funding.”

Within Congress, other lawmakers drew a line in the sand regarding support of environmental issues.

Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe said the cuts are in taxpayers’ best interests and that the EPA is brainwashing children.

“We want to deliver the services, we want to make things clean, but we’re going to take all this stuff that comes out of the EPA that’s brainwashing our kids, that’s propaganda, things that aren’t true, allegations,” said Inhofe, who famously once brought a snowball to the Senate floor to argue against evidence that global temperatures are rising.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation vowed “to fight with every fiber in our bodies to see that Congress rejects this Bay budget and maintains a program that has achieved so much and is poised to save one of the world’s greatest natural resources.”

**Information from CNN contributed to this report.**