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Record $11.5 Million Will Support Cleaner Water, Improved Habitat in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

BALTIMORE, Oct. 6, 2015 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) today announced the recipients of a record $11.5 million in grants for restoration, conservation and environmental outreach across the Chesapeake Bay watershed's six states and the District of Columbia. The 44 projects will leverage more than $22.2 million in matching funds for a total of $33 million to support and advance the efforts of partners and localities to achieve a cleaner Chesapeake Bay.

Funding for these projects was awarded through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (CBSF), which is administered by NFWF and financed primarily by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction (INSR) Grants Program and the Small Watershed Grants (SWG) Program, with additional public and private funding provided by NFWF. Officials and guests announced the awards at Prince of Peace Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD, where a 2014 CBSF grant to the National Wildlife Federation and partners is supporting improvements to help the church better manage stormwater runoff.

"Through the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, NFWF and our partners, especially the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, continue to invest in efforts that build more resilient communities while improving local watersheds," said Eric Schwaab, vice president for conservation programs at NFWF. "These investments demonstrate that the actions necessary to restore local rivers and streams go hand in hand with opportunities to enhance local communities."

"In addition to the Fund's principal partner, the U.S. EPA, this innovative public-private partnership is also supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and private companies including the Altria Group – through their landmark Restoring America's Resources partnership with NFWF – along with CSX and SeaWorld."

This year's 44 grant projects in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C. and West Virginia incorporate both innovative and established methods to improve waterways, restore habitat and strengthen iconic species. The local focus of these dollars will engage agricultural producers, homeowners, churches and businesses in on-the-ground restoration actions that support quality of life in their communities, while ultimately improving the health of the Bay.

The grants announced today are in addition to more than $600,000 already awarded by NFWF this year through its Technical Capacity Grants program, aimed at providing technical services to local communities and watershed organizations for work to plan, prioritize, and design local conservation and restoration efforts.

"Public-private partnerships like the ones announced today are crucial to ensuring that communities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed have access to clean waters, as well as healthy fish and wildlife populations," said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a senior member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. "Such strategic investments generate new economic activity, create jobs and save public money in the long run, all while improving the health of the Bay. We must continue to find ways to expand and replicate efforts like these many times over for the Chesapeake Bay to fully recover."

"Countless neighborhoods, businesses, agricultural operations and wildlife habitat areas come together in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries to form one of the most unique economic ecosystems in the world," said Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger. "I am proud to support grant funding through the EPA and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation for non-profit and other organizations to determine best practices in Chesapeake Bay environmental and water resource management. By working together from the local to the federal level, everyone is encouraged to be a stakeholder in the protection of one of our country's most treasured and valuable resources, the Chesapeake Bay watershed."

"Public-private partnerships – like the grant funding offered by the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation – are critical elements in our fight to protect the Chesapeake Bay," said Rep. John Sarbanes. "If we want to ensure that the Chesapeake Bay remains a national treasure and an economic driver for future generations, we need to continue investing in projects that improve the Bay's health."

"EPA is proud to provide $8.8 million to support local communities in their efforts to use innovative, sustainable, and community-based approaches for improving the health of their local rivers and streams," said EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin. "These 44 projects are an investment that will return lasting benefits not just to the Chesapeake Bay, but to diverse communities in Baltimore and throughout the watershed, helping them become healthier, stronger and more resilient."

The INSR Program awarded $7.1 million to 20 projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed with recipients providing more than $16.1 million in matching funds. The INSR Program provides grants to innovative and cost-effective projects that dramatically reduce or eliminate the flow of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution into local waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.

The SWG Program awarded $4.3 million to 24 projects in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed with recipients providing $6 million in matching funds. The SWG program provides grants to organizations and municipal governments that are working to improve the condition of their local watershed through on-the-ground restoration, habitat conservation and community engagement. Many grant recipients expect to reduce pollution not only through infrastructures such as greener landscapes but through community outreach initiatives to promote sustainable landscaping and improved practices for managing runoff.

Examples of this year's Chesapeake Stewardship Fund grant recipients in the Baltimore Maryland metro region include:

  • Blue Water Baltimore, Inc. ($500,000) will engage the local community in an initiative that seeks to implement stormwater management practices within five targeted neighborhoods in Baltimore City. The Deep Blue program is an innovative partnership between the City of Baltimore, Blue Water Baltimore and the Neighborhood Design Center.
  • The Maryland Department of Agriculture ($499,937) will pilot a Nitrogen Incentive Payment, an innovative method to incentivize wetland and riparian forest buffer enrollments, re-enrollment and permanent easements in high priority areas to reduce sediment and nutrient loadings in order to improve water quality, wildlife habitat and help meet Maryland's Chesapeake Bay TMDL Watershed Implementation Plan goals.
  • The Spa Creek Conservancy ($477,907) will install nine upland watershed stormwater Best Management Practices. Projects will include bioretention cells, filtration systems, bioswales, sand filters and conservation landscaping. Volunteer services will come from engaging the two public housing communities in the watershed. Concurrently Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay will develop and execute a watershed restoration job skills training program to ensure long-term sustainability resources.

Since 2006, the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program has provided $52 million to 129 projects that reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Since 1999, the Small Watershed Grants Program has provided more than $42.4 million to support 755 projects in the region and has further leveraged close to $133 million in local matching funds for a total conservation investment in on-the-ground restoration of over $175 million.

For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, including a full list of this year's awardees, visit www.nfwf.org/chesapeake.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership that has coordinated and conducted the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since 1983. Partners include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, representing the federal government; the states of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and advisory groups of citizens, scientists and government officials. To learn more, visit www.chesapeakebay.net.

CONTACT: Rob Blumenthal, rob.blumenthal@nfwf.org, 202.857.0166 Mike Smith, mike@greensmithpr.com, 703.623.3834 Margaret Enloe, menloe@chesapeakebay.net, 443.786.1210

Source:National Fish and Wildlife Foundation