- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 1, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The governors of Virginia and Maryland and the mayor of the District paid a visit to Capitol Hill yesterdayin the hope of keeping the Chesapeake Bay cleanup projects from eroding.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, Maryland Democrat, said the trip brings “a whole new energy to the Bay fight.” She said the short-term challenge will be fighting proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) budget.

“We’ve got a budget battle over the next few weeks to fund the Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” Miss Mikulski said.

Maryland and Virginia senators all signed a letter late last year asking President Bush for $1 billion in federal funding to save the Bay. While they all say publicly that is still the hope, the private meeting was to discuss strategy amid expected cutbacks to last year’s funding levels.

“Regrettably, we’re sliding backwards,” said Sen. John W. Warner, Virginia Republican. “The governors and mayor not only came here personally, but they bring real money to the table,” Mr. Warner said, adding that the federal government should at least match the local money on the table.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, said Virginia and Maryland have budgeted a combined $150 million next year for Bay cleanup.

Mr. Warner said the region hopes to improve the Bay’s water quality by 2010 and remove it from the EPA’s list of endangered waterways.

The governor was hoping that Virginia’s record sevenfold spending increase for Bay cleanup, along with other regional money, will receive federal attention.

Also attending were Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Finance Panel released a report last fall saying that $15 billion in state and federal funding is needed over the next six years to get the Chesapeake off the EPA’s endangered list.

The president’s budget proposals cut oyster restoration funds from $3 million last year to zero, while the EPA’s Bay program would stay at virtually the same funding level.

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