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The Bay vs. Goodlatte
Congressman's effort to block funding of Chesapeake Bay's restoration is wrong on every level

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Date published: 2/21/2011

REP. BOB GOODLATTE, R- Roanoke, seems the sort of fellow who would prefer Pottersville to Bedford Falls. In the classic movie "It's a Wonderful Life," Pottersville was what Bedford Falls would have become had George Bailey not provided townspeople an opportunity to invest in their town and make it a pleasant place to live.

Mr. Goodlatte introduced a budget amendment to the spending bill passed by the Republican-controlled House early Saturday that would ban the use of the federal funds that the EPA has set aside to implement its Chesapeake Bay restoration plan. Unlike prior, largely voluntary initiatives that have brought little more than 25 years of frustration, this plan carries the power of law and a broad understanding of the cleanup's importance among Democrats and many Republicans alike.

Over those decades, as officials touted the Bay's past and future value but failed to commit the necessary cleanup funding, the science and economics of the issue have been well-documented: A healthy Bay is the foundation of a thriving regional ecosystem and the fuel for a powerful economic engine. It bolsters each element of the seafood, tourism, and recreation industries--creating, not destroying, jobs. It contributes to the Virginia that is for lovers--lovers of a fruitful Chesapeake, fed by scenic waterways free of dead fish and toxicity.

This all may be lost on Mr. Goodlatte, who claims that the EPA initiative is overreach on the part of the agency, but it is well-understood by watershed resi-dents who have expressed their views through their votes and voices.

According to a Christopher Newport University/Richmond Times-Dispatch poll released last month, 54 percent of Virginians would pay higher fees to clean up the Bay. The poll found favorable majorities whether the results were broken down by age, gender, political affiliation (including none), race, or region of the state. (Interestingly, the only group with a majority opposed was that in which the respondents were uncertain of the level of education they had attained.)

This is an effort for which the money has finally been found and set aside--in accordance with years of study. If funds are not spent now, when will they be? The interests that cite the troubled economy in their criticism today--including farmers, builders, and developers--are the same ones that attacked the effort during the most robust of times.

Elected officials and environmental leaders from across the nation and state have responded swiftly to inform Mr. Goodlatte that his amendment would leave the watershed states facing precisely the type of "unfunded mandate" that the congressman and anti-environment interests so often decry. States and communities are already working on how they will meet their clean-water goals, in some cases simply redoubling existing efforts. The wheels are turning.

Bay-related funding from various other federal agencies, including Interior, Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, though also targeted for possible cuts, would continue to flow but be far less effective without EPA support.

As the legislation proceeds through the Senate, Mr. Goodlatte's amendment should top the list of items to be stricken.