By Greg Ellison
(Aug. 6, 2020) The Maryland Coastal Bays Program is applying this week for a Coastal Watersheds Grant through the National Estuary Program.
Executive Director Kevin Smith said Restore America’s Estuaries administers the funding stream provided by the Environmental Protection Agency for the National Estuary Program.
“We’re putting in three proposals,” he said. “Right now, the letters of intent are due at the end of this week.”
The grant program is intended to protect and restore water quality and ecological conditions of 28 estuaries nationally.
Smith said the 2020 request for proposal would be due in full by later this fall.
“We’re putting that together and seeing if we get invited to put in a bigger proposal,” he said.
Notification of awards would begin in early 2021.
“That money, hopefully, would be available sometime after the beginning of the calendar year,” he said.
Established through the Clean Water Act in 1987, the nationally competitive Coastal Watersheds Grant Program backs projects aimed at remedying conditions that threaten the environmental health of coastal regions and estuary areas.
“Obviously, any opportunities to improve water quality, treat stormwater or improve habitat we’re going to take advantage,” he said.
Among the congressional environmental priorities the Coastal Watersheds Grant Program addresses are: habitat loss that impacts water quality or fisheries, reducing detrimental algae blooms, limiting invasive species that impact water-based recreation or inhibit wastewater treatment plants, coastal erosion from flooding and sea level rise, nutrient runoff impacts and emerging waterway contaminants.
Smith said the letter of intent filed on Friday would target three undertakings.
“We’ve got some additional stormwater work in Ocean Pines that we’ll be applying for,” he said. The second proposal is to enhance stormwater treatment quality in the southern bays near Chincoteague.
“The last one is a proposal for enhancing and restoring some of the colonial bird nesting habitat in the coastal bays,” he said.
In recent years a precipitous decline has been observed in migrating bird species traditionally spotted on the Eastern Shore.
Smith said shifting environmental factors could adversely affect eco-tourism that has grown on the Eastern Shore in recent decades.
“Things like the Delmarva Birding Weekend has turned into a pretty big deal,” he said. “We’re really focusing a lot of energy on trying to figure out how we can stem that decline and restore some of these habitats that these birds, like the black skimmer, can continue to nest in the area.