Volume 14, Issue 7 ~ February 16 - February 22, 2006


A Miniature Blueprint for Funding the Bay

You’ve heard of robbing Peter to pay Paul. Well, the federal budget borrows from the Bay to boost Bob.

That’s Bob as in Gov. Robert Ehrlich, who stood on an Eastern Shore farm last September to announce an aggressive $20 million plan to restore the Corsica River and a stretch of its environs.

“This is the grand experiment, taking a challenged river and bringing everyone together,” the governor said.

We’re all for an experimental fix-up of an impaired waterway, even if it’s one that most Marylanders would have trouble finding on a map with a magnifying glass. (It flows west into the Bay from Centerville — north of the Bay Bridge.)

But we were a bit perplexed when we saw President George W. Bush’s new budget offering to spend $6 million on the Corsica River while slashing basics from the new overall Bay budget.

The Corsica River pilot project would pour money and know-how from a host of government agencies into cleaning up a waterway befouled by sewage. Planting Bay grasses and seeding oysters is just part of it.

The project is on a short list of endeavors that Ehrlich will be using to inoculate himself against election-year charges that he has paid little attention to the sort of conservation issues that mainstream Marylanders support.

Here’s the problem: In the rest of the budget, Maryland and other states surrounding Chesapeake Bay would see about $18 million less next year under a White House plan to cut the Clean Water State Revolving Fund.

Grants to work on Bay tributaries (other than the Corsica River) would be whacked by $2 million, and land preservation programs would see about $4 million less.

Speaking of oysters, the Army Corps of Engineers budget notes that last year’s funding for Chesapeake Bay Oyster Recovery in Maryland and Virginia is not retained in the new budget.

Additionally, Bush proposed a 45-percent cut for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Bay Program office in Annapolis.

Depending on how you count, the cuts exceed $20 million.

There are several ways to look at this turn of events. First, we hope that our congressional delegation can forestall some of these cuts.

Second, it’s quite possible that during a time when war and tax cuts for the wealthy are bleeding the budget, we’ll need to become accustomed to getting less for Chesapeake Bay.

That said, we’re hoping the Corsica River project, politically tinged or not, succeeds. Given the cut in funds for the rest of the Bay, that tiny river might be the only restored place to visit.


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