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Volume 4, Number 1
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Desperately Seeking Dollars

By Jack Greer

"They've asked us to find the money." So said former Virginia Governor Gerald L. Baliles, chair of the Blue Ribbon Finance Panel appointed by the governors of the Bay states and the other members of the Chesapeake Executive Council.

Faced with public frustration over slow progress, in December 2003 the Executive Council charged the Panel with recommending finance strategies that would take the Bay cleanup effort to the next level. Chief among their concerns was meeting the court-ordered 2010 deadline for removing the Bay from the federal list of impaired waters - the so-called "dirty waters" list.

After some eight months of deliberation, Baliles, flanked by several other panelists, delivered their recommendations at a press conference on October 27, 2004 in Washington, D.C.

Their boldest idea: the creation of a watershedwide Chesapeake Bay Financing Authority, capitalized by federal and state dollars. While the media focused on the $15 billion recommended to fund the Authority ($12 billion federal and $3 billion state), the concept itself received less attention. Even if funded at a lower level, the Financing Authority would create a watershedwide revolving loan fund, able to target money to the Bay's most pressing problems, regardless of political boundaries. This would create a holistic approach to funding not yet seen in the Bay cleanup effort.

The Panel made nearly two dozen additional recommendations, among them:

Cleanup Funding for Nutrients & Sediment

Dollar for dollar agriculture remains the least expensive sector, while promising the greatest reductions. The Blue Ribbon Panel found that agriculture may also take new directions that increase profitability and decrease environmental impacts. Source: Blue Ribbon Finance Panel, 2004.

$ Establish state surcharge programs like Maryland's "flush tax" throughout the watershed.
$ Set aside one percent of all funds for outreach and technical assistance, for example through County Soil and Water Conservation Districts and County Cooperative Extension offices.
$ Increase Farm Bill funding for the Chesapeake Bay watershed and improve current cost-share programs.
$ Fully implement the Conservation Security Program (CSP) under the 2002 Farm Bill and put more emphasis on CSP in the next Farm Bill.
$ Include comprehensive Nutrient Management Plans as part of compliance for Farm Bill commodity payment programs.
$ Invite the Secretary of Agriculture to join the Chesapeake Executive Council.
$ Increase funding for the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF), which currently gives loans for waste treatment and other water quality improvements, and enable the Bay watershed states to give 30 percent of their SRF funds as grants.
$ Improve coordination among federal agencies working in the watershed.

Additional information about the Blue Ribbon Finance Panel can be found on the web at www.chesapeakebay.net or www.efc.umd.edu. The Chesapeake Bay Program also offers a customized CD that contains the Panel's final report, Saving a National Treasure: Financing the Cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay (pdf, 4.2MB), as well as extensive background materials prepared for the Panel.

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