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Congressman Bobby Scott

Representing the 3rd District of Virginia

Scott and Members Lead Bipartisan Letter to President Trump Emphasizing Support for the Federal Programs that Support Iconic Bodies of Water

April 5, 2017
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, April 4, 2017, Representatives Bobby Scott (D-VA) Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Dave Reichert (R-WA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), and David Joyce (R-OH) led a bipartisan letter urging President Trump not to eliminate investments in iconic bodies of water. The letter, signed by 31 other Members of Congress, urged the President to reconsider his budget proposal that would completely eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency’s Geographic Programs that provide cleanup funding for the Puget Sound, the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other major bodies of water. 

The members wrote in the letter sent yesterday: “Collectively, the EPA’s Geographic Program funds have been used by state, local, and tribal governments to implement thousands of on-the-ground projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitats, enhance fish and shellfish populations, and combat invasive species. Although every region has shown significant improvement as the result of these investments, there is still a great deal of work to do.” 

“We know that you are strongly in favor of growing the economy, protecting clean water, and creating jobs. The federal funding provided through the Geographic Programs does just that,” the members added. 

Full text of the letter follows.

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

We write to express our strong and unified support for the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Geographic Programs, including the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Puget Sound, Chesapeake Bay Program, Long Island Sound, Gulf of Mexico, and others. 

The lakes, estuaries, and shorelines protected by these programs are truly national treasures.  The Great Lakes are the largest freshwater system in the world, holding roughly 18 percent of the world's fresh water supply and 90 percent of the United States' fresh water supply.  The Puget Sound and the Chesapeake Bay watersheds are the Nation’s two largest estuaries, encompassing more than 48 million acres of rivers, bays, beaches and shorelines that support some of the Nation’s most valuable fisheries.

These iconic bodies of water are also crucial economic drivers that support millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact across the country.  In Washington State, the marine industry – which includes fishing fleets, ports, and seafood processors – generates $30 billion annually, and is directly tied to the health of the Puget Sound.  Likewise, more than 1.5 million jobs and $62 billion in wages are directly tied to the Great Lakes.

Collectively, the EPA’s Geographic Program funds have been used by state, local, and tribal governments to implement thousands of on-the-ground projects to improve water quality, protect and restore native habitats, enhance fish and shellfish populations, and combat invasive species.  Although every region has shown significant improvement as the result of these investments, there is still a great deal of work to do. 

For example, in 2014 a toxic algal bloom in Lake Erie forced 400,000 residents in the Toledo area to go without home water service for three days.  Similarly, in 2015 the Puget Sound experienced the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded off the West Coast which closed shellfish and crab fisheries throughout the region. Likewise, the annual “dead zone” in the Chesapeake Bay, the result of algal blooms feeding off nutrient pollution, causes significant stress to the Bay’s ecosystem and strains the populations of commercial species such as the iconic blue crab.

The economic impacts from these algal blooms reverberate throughout these regions.  Grants from the EPA’s geographic programs have been critical to funding research and monitoring efforts to improve predictions of these blooms, but it is clear that much more work remains in order to protect the health of our citizens and our local economies.

Similarly, in South Florida, the EPA’s geographic program funds have been critical to supporting efforts to monitor and reduce the impact of point- and nonpoint-source pollution on the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.  These efforts are key to protecting indigenous populations of corals, shellfish, fish and wildlife, and recreational activities which are all critical economic drivers for the region.

We know that you are strongly in favor of growing the economy, protecting clean water, and creating jobs. The federal funding provided through the Geographic Programs does just that.  A peer-reviewed study of the Chesapeake cleanup plan demonstrated that the Chesapeake provides benefits of more than $107 billion annually to the region, which will grow by more than $22 billion annually once the cleanup plan is complete.

Likewise, the GLRI has accomplished four times more clean-up and restoration work in the last six years than was undertaken over the previous 22 years.  This progress has helped rejuvenate the hunting, fishing, and birding opportunities which support 217,000 tourism and recreation jobs throughout the region.  Furthermore, in Washington State alone, every EPA dollar spent on Puget Sound recovery efforts has leveraged more than $24 in matching funds from other federal agencies and local partners, including the state, tribes, and non-profits.  That’s an enormous return on investment.

Given the sweeping economic impacts of the Geographic Programs, we ask that you continue to include robust support for these programs in your Fiscal Year 2018 budget request and beyond.  The health of our communities and the strength of our economies depend on it.

Sincerely,

 

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