Proposed fed budget eliminates beach water-quality grants
While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced on Jan. 31 that it would provide nearly $9.8 million in funding for beach monitoring to 38 states, territories and tribes – with $210,000 to go to Delaware in 2012 – the President Barack Obama’s proposed federal budget specifically eliminates $10 million for those same grants.
In the past, the grants have helped states, tribes and territories implement water quality monitoring and public notification programs at coastal and Great Lakes beaches.
In the “Cuts, Consolidations and Savings” section of the proposed budget, the Office of Management and Budget asserts that the more localized agencies can run the monitoring programs without support from the federal government.
“EPA has worked with state, tribal and territorial governments for over 10 years to develop their capacity to implement beach monitoring programs. As a result, many of these non-federal agencies now have the ability and knowledge to run their own programs without federal support.
“Additionally, based on the importance of beach areas to local economies, non-federal agencies have significant incentive to continue these well-established, well-understood activities,” the statement on the funding cuts notes.
Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara said this week that, while the proposed budget cuts were disappointing, the state agency is committed to providing safe and clean waterways for recreation.
“Delaware has been long recognized for having some of the cleanest beaches in the nation, earning a five-star ‘Superstar Beaches’ rating last year,” he said.
“Although the proposed federal budget cuts are disappointing, we are committed to ensuring that Delaware’s beaches and waterways are safe and protective of public health as part of our tireless efforts to provide world-class outdoor recreational opportunities,” O’Mara assured.
Chris Bason, the new executive director of the Center for the Inland Bays, pointed out that that DNREC has received grants from the EPA through the Beaches Environmental Assessment and Coastal Health (BEACH) Act to test for water quality and has worked in the past with the University of Delaware to implement the grants.
Bason said the resulting data has been featured in CIB reports on recreational water quality in the Inland Bays. The latest data is included in the 2011 State of the Bays report.
“The local community is fortunate to have that type of data from DNREC and the citizen monitoring program, because the Inland Bays estuary has recreational water quality problems,” said Bason. “The testing program is well run and the data is used by those who want to make an informed decision about swimming safety in the bays and the ocean.”
He added that, as the EPA’s budget gets cut, the states – including Delaware – “are forced to make difficult choices about how to handle the loss funding. … “It’s not just EPA programs that monitor pollution that are being cut, but successful programs to clean up water pollution, as well. The cuts really sting in communities like ours, where we have a quality of life and a tourism industry based on clean water.”
“Here’s hoping the State can adapt and continue investments in the most crucial clean water programs,” Bason added. “Monitoring often gets targeted for cuts early, but monitoring is a wise and relatively small investment so that scientists can tell if pollution control measures are working.”
The Obama administration proposed a budget of $8.344 billion for the EPA, which it says reflects “government-wide effort to reduce spending and find cost-savings” and which is $105 million below the EPA’s enacted level for last year.
The proposed budget does include $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, and about $73 million – a $15 million increase from last year – will fund the Chesapeake Bay Program’s continued implementation of the President’s Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration.
According to the EPA, that funding will support bay watershed states as they implement their plans to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution “in an unprecedented effort to restore this economically important ecosystem.”
The $50 million in proposed savings – including the proposal to cut $10 million in beach grants – means the elimination of several EPA programs that the OMB says “have either completed their goals or can be implemented through other federal or state efforts.”