(WAVY) — The largest environmental group in Hampton Roads dedicated to preserving the Chesapeake Bay will be able to continue several programs, thanks to funding approved by the U.S. Senate and expected to be approved in the House of Representatives.
Bipartisan legislation passed last week in the House will provide $90 million annually through 2025 for the Environmental Protection Agency, which in turn will fund the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, among other agencies.
Management for CBF, with a local office in the Brock Environmental Center near Lynnhaven Inlet, sees this as major victory at a time when the Trump administration is rolling back environmental regulations and programs.
“I think people responded in kind with ‘this is not okay,'” said Christy Everett, local CBF director. “These waterways are critical to our regional economy and critical to our quality of life.”
CBF wants to make it clear that it will end up getting only a portion of the allotted funds.
“The money authorized by the Senate is for the federal government’s EPA Chesapeake Bay Program, not us at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a private nonprofit,” said CBF’s Kenny Fletcher. “We at the Bay Foundation get the vast majority of our funding through donations from the public, not the government, though a small percentage of our budget does come through state and federal grants including the Bay Program.”
One of the newer programs where CBF will use the money is a first-of-its-kind barge with six large tanks, holding thousands of recycled oyster shells. It’s an incubator for new oysters.
“Each of these shells will get covered in baby oysters, so the end result is handheld oyster reefs growing where all of these shells may have ended up in the trash,” said CBF’s Jackie Shannon.
Senators from both sides of the aisle supported the funding.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) sponsored the bill. Rep. Elaine Luria (D-Va. Beach) co-sponsored the House version.
“We need this bi-partisan support to show that what we’re doing is a priority, it’s important,” Everett said.
Oysters are “filter fish” that help purify bay waters. CBF, the Elizabeth River Project and other agencies worked together to make the Lafayette River the first in Virginia to have its oyster habitat restored.
Other CBF programs involve monitoring the menhaden catch in the bay, offshore oil and gas drilling, and the use of fertilizers on lawns and turfgrass throughout the bay watershed.
Everett says her agency is currently working with state lawmakers in the General Assembly on several issues including upgrades of wastewater treatment plants and stormwater management.