Proposed Budget Seeks Cut For Water Loan Program, Increase For CALFED Funding

On Feb. 6, President Bush unveiled a proposed $2.77 trillion budget for fiscal 2007 that will bolster defense and nuclear energy while cutting funding for programs for areas such as clean water.

The budget request for EPA is $7.3 billion; the proposed budget for last year was $7.6 billion. Agency officials defended the budget, stating that it reflects the need for spending restraint while accelerating environmental protection, maintaining economic competitiveness and strengthening homeland defenses.

"EPA shares in the responsibility of being good stewards of our nation's environment, and good stewards of our nation's tax dollars," said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson. "This budget fulfills every presidential environmental commitment and maintains the goals laid out in EPA's Strategic Plan, while spending less."

The proposed budget would cut approximately $200 million (from $887 million to $687 million) from the agency's Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) program, a loan program that helps local communities repair and replace aging treatment plants.

Ken Kirk, executive director of the National Association of Clean Water Agencies (NACWA), stated that "this proposed budget cut to the CWSRF is the wrong measure at the wrong time. Without a long-term, sustainable federal-state-local partnership, communities will not be able to tackle essential capital replacement projects needed to meet federal Clean Water Act mandates and improve the quality of the nation's waters."

Studies by EPA, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Water Infrastructure Network (WIN) estimate a water infrastructure funding gap exceeding $300 billion over the next 20 years, NACWA officials said. While NACWA believes that improved utility management and rate increases at the local level are critical to addressing this daunting funding gap, the association also is calling on Congress and the White House to support the recently introduced Clean Water Trust Act of 2005 (H.R. 4560). NACWA officials said the legislation would create a deficit-neutral, clean water trust fund to guarantee clean and safe water in America for the long-term.

For more information on this legislation, go to http://thomas.loc.gov.

EPA's proposed fiscal 2007 budget includes:

  • $184 million for EPA Homeland Security efforts, an increase of $55 million over the fiscal 2006 enacted budget. This funding includes $33 million to protect the nation's drinking water from terrorist attack, including additional Water Sentinel pilots.
  • More than $70 million to clean and protect the Great Lakes. This includes $50 million for Great Lakes Legacy Act programs, an increase of more than $20 million from last year's enacted budget, to support four to six sediment remediation projects, which will result in cleanup of approximately 500,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediments.
  • $26 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, an increase of $4 million over last year's enacted budget, for improving water quality, overall protection and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The funding includes $6 million for the Corsica River pilot project in the state of Maryland to help establish 200 acres of forested buffers on non-agricultural land, restore 50 acres of wetlands and two miles of stream channel, restore 10 acres of aquatic vegetation and 20 acres of oyster beds.

Additional information on EPA's budget can be accessed at http://www.epa.gov/ocfo/budget/index.htm.

U.S. Department of the Interior

The proposed 2007 budget of $10.5 billion for the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is a reduction of $332 million or 2.9 percent below the 2006 funding level. Interior officials defended the budget request, stating that it reflects fiscal restraint and the president's commitment to cut the deficit by more than half by 2009.

"This budget underscores Interior's strategic missions and improves performance in high priority Administration initiatives," Interior Secretary Gale Norton said. "Within the context of the president's plan to reduce the deficit, this budget will enable Interior to fulfill its key responsibilities through collaborative approaches and partnerships, facilitate energy production, and continue Indian trust reform."

According to DOI officials, the budget includes $14.5 million for Water 2025, an increase of $9.6 million to meet the challenge of preventing crises and conflicts over water in the West. However, the Land and Water Conservation Fund State Grants would be reduced by $27.9 million from the 2006 level. Paying for improvements to state and local parks is a decision better left to state and local taxpayers, DOI officials argue.

The budget proposed increasing the CALFED (a program to address the complex problems in California's Bay-Delta system) funding in the Bureau of Reclamation's CALFED account to $38.6 million from the $37 million enacted in fiscal 2006. "This is particularly good news given that the president has proposed an overall decline in the Bureau of Reclamation's budget. The funding levels are positive for most of the important CALFED categories, including storage studies, the environmental water account, science and study of the Delta smelt," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

More information on DOI's budget can be accessed at http://www.doi.gov/budget/2007/07Hilites/toc.html.

U.S. Department Of Agriculture

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) budget for fiscal 2007 would be about $93 billion, down from $96 billion the previous fiscal year. This funding includes more than $400 million for the Wetlands Reserve Program. This will allow for an additional 250,000 acres to be enrolled in the program in 2007, 100,000 more acres than estimated for 2006. When combined with other USDA conservation programs, this will constitute the highest enrollment level ever, USDA officials said.

Additional information regarding the fiscal 2007 budget proposal is available on the at http://www.usda.gov/budget.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

The budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) totals $3.68 billion.

"This proposed budget is a clear indication of the Bush Administration's commitment to protect lives and livelihoods through the missions of NOAA," said Retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, PhD, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "This budget request will provide improvements to fisheries management, increases for tsunami and hurricane warnings, marine transportation safety, and to ensure environmental satellite continuity."

The budget includes $107.6 million for ecosystem management such as fisheries habitat restoration and enhancement for protected species.

"Fisheries provide $44 billion to the U.S. GDP annually, while coastal and marine waters support more than 28 million U.S. jobs. NOAA will work diligently to produce healthy and sustainable ecosystems that benefit society," Lautenbacher said. "NOAA services have never been more important to the nation, and this budget request will provide increases that improve ecosystem management, among our other vital services."

The requested amount for NOAA's Ecosystem Program includes funding for programs that review the status of vulnerable species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, and that assess the economic effects of large-scale environmental events such as hurricanes, hypoxia and red tide. NOAA will work to develop harmful algal bloom and hypoxia forecasting and response capabilities, as well as improve protection and management of coral habitats and other marine protected areas. Among other things, the budget will increase support for fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico, start the Open Rivers Initiative for voluntary dam removal, and fund creation of a Great Lakes Habitat Restoration Program. These are in addition to NOAA's standing mission to support sustainable fisheries and protect the nation's marine resources.

A summary of NOAA's budget request can be found at http://www.corporateservices.noaa.gov/%7Enbo/07bluebook_highlights.html.

Additional information on the fiscal 2007 budget can be accessed at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2007.

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