The latest on the Bay cleanup, Water Rule, and infrastructure promises
Keeping up with the news these days is no easy task. We understand.
But if you're looking for quick updates on the most important federal water issues facing our local streams, you've come to the right place. And, spoiler alert, it's not all bad news!
A lot remains unclear about what impact federal level changes will have on the Potomac River and local streams, but one thing is certain. Local, on-the-ground action coupled with state-led protections will continue to be our best chance to save the Potomac.
We're forging ahead with our local clean water initiatives, and we hope to see you out on the river soon. Maybe volunteering at National Trails Day, perhaps? In the meantime, here are some important updates:
Chesapeake Bay Program
In early May, Congress approved a spending bill that fully funds the federal Chesapeake Bay Program through September 2017. Somewhat surprisingly, the $73 million Bay cleanup budget even includes two line items that were zeroed out under President Obama's last budget — $6 million for local restoration and $6 million specifically for combating nutrient and sediment pollution.
That spending bill expires in September. As for the 2018 budget, we're still in muddy waters.
The 2018 budget, which as drafted by President Trump calls for the elimination of the Chesapeake Bay Program, is now with Congress. Updated draft versions of the budget from both houses of Congress are expected out sometime this summer. A final 2018 budget should be passed by the end of September.
Potomac Conservancy and our partners with the Choose Clean Water Coalition are continuing to pressure members of Congress to fully fund the Bay cleanup. Stay tuned for updates.
Waters of the US Rule
Another federal issue to keep an eye on is the Waters of the US Rule, or WOTUS for short. The rule protects streams and wetlands, many of which are sources of drinking water. President Trump signed an executive order early this year requesting the EPA begin the process of rolling back those protections.
The rule-making process is lengthy, and this is likely to play out over several years.
The administration was dealt an early blow however; a pending Supreme Court case concerning the rule, which the Trump administration requested be delayed, will be heard after all. The case isn't about the rule itself, but seeks to determine which courts should handle litigation going forward. If you want to keep tabs on this case and other water news, sign up for our River Update monthly email >
Outdated water infrastructure, such as combined sewer systems, contribute billions of gallons of pollution to local waterways annually. Even some of the nation's wealthiest cities, such as Old Town Alexandria in Northern Virginia, struggle with infrastructure issues.
On the campaign trail President Trump promised to fund infrastructure projects across the country, something environmental groups were cautiously optimistic about.
Despite promises to ensure “crystal clear, crystal clean” the Trump administration's initial infrastructure plans indicate that clean water is not a priority. In addition to proposed cuts to the EPA, Trump's budget also eliminates the Department of Agriculture’s rural water and wastewater loan and grant programs, which help fund important projects in the Potomac's headwaters.