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Trump budget eviscerates bay restoration funds

Wild oysters and mussels grow on the bay shore in Virginia

Credit Cover of the Trump budget

President Trump's budget blueprint to "Make American Great Again" cuts $73 million from EPA, the entire budget for the Chesapeake Bay Program, the multi-agency effort that oversees bay restoration programs.

The cuts would remove EPA oversight of the Chesapeake Bay's so-called pollution diet to clean up the bay and its streams, creeks and rivers and drew sharp rebukes from bay scientists.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a morning conference call the cuts "make no sense" and that EPA’s role in the bay clean-up is "fundamental."

Don Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science warned the cuts would end years of efforts to restore the striped bass, oysters and blue crabs that are essential to the bay region’s economy.

"We're trying to restore the oyster population," he said. "That's very heavily dependent on the continued federal investment in the restoration efforts in a partnership with the states. We've worked very hard to recover the rockfish populations from where they were back in the 80's. Same thing with blue crabs. We've got new management approaches and they're recovering."

Baker said the burgeoning oyster industry in Maryland and Virginia would take a big hit.

"Dockside value is where you start in looking at the total economic impact," he said. "Then you have to have shuckers, wholesalers, retailers, those who move the material, restauranteurs, etc, etc. But just the dockside value is about $43 million for the bay, so that's significant."

The president plans to hand funding responsibilities over to already financially stressed state and local entities.

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said the cuts will do significant harm to his state’s families and economy.

And Maryland’s senior senator, Ben Cardin, called on Congress to "quickly reject the president’s budget before the absurdity of his proposed cuts…causes ripples of uncertainty and fear across the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed economy."

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