On a sunny day in the Bayside community of Havre de Grace, Maryland, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) announced a new $4 million dollar initiative to provide financial and technical assistance to local governments to help restore the Chesapeake Bay.

The March 13 press conference was hosted by the Honorable Mary Ann Lisanti, Harford County Council Member and immediate past Chair of the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) to the Chesapeake Executive Council. Council Member Lisanti pointed out that this is a pivotal moment in the Bay’s future. She said, “Let us focus on our waters and our towns with projects we know will produce the desired outcome. We in local government recognize that Bay restoration begins by cleaning up every stream, creeks, and waterways in our own backyards. We the elected leaders of counties, cities, townships, and boroughs will be the ones to engage the public, direct our staff, and make the decisions necessary to improve stormwater systems and sewage treatment plants.”

EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin pointed out that, “Now more than ever, the Chesapeake Bay needs the creativity, innovation and ingenuity of local governments. This new EPA funding will enable local governments to implement the best solutions to on-the-ground challenges the face in restoring the Bay, and share those approaches with other towns throughout the entire watershed.” David O’Neill, Eastern Director of the National Fish and Wildlife FoundationThe $4 million in grant funding to local governments will be made available through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and a program they are calling the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. Grants will be awarded in the following categories: Green Infrastructure Showcase Projects, Local Government Capacity Building, and As-Needed Technical Assistance.

David O’Neill, Director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Eastern Partnership Office said, “A growing number of local governments are viewing community improvement projects, from street and park enhancements to public facility renovations, as an opportunity to green their community and help the Bay. This initiative will help more local governments meet their jobs, mobility, and recreation needs, while simultaneously helping them restore local creeks and streams and the Chesapeake Bay.”[imageframe ] EPA Region III Administrator Shawn GarvinThe funding comes at a critical time when local governments are working with their states to begin to implement their Watershed Implementation Plans.These plans are the primary vehicle for restoration actions required under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).The TMDL sets reduction goals for local waters and the Bay. Frank and Audrey Peterman, the 2015 Forum’s Plenary Speakers, encouraged attendees to work towards greater inclusion and diversity in the conservation movement.Council Member Lisanti told the gathering of more than 50 press, elected officials, representatives of Congressional offices, federal officials, members of interest groups, students, and citizens, that she has a deep connection to the waters of the Bay having grown up in Havre de Grace.  “As I have traveled within this watershed, from the Commonwealth of Virginia, to the farmlands of Pennsylvania, from Maryland’s Eastern Shore to the mountains, and down to the District of Columbia, I have witnessed the same rooted desire to protect these special places and to take responsibility or our actions. So many have pledged to do their part, to set our communities on the right path to reap the benefits of clean water and a healthier environment. This surely will be our legacy to future generations,” she said.

For more information about the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund and grant opportunities for local governments, visit www.nfwf.org/chesapeake. The deadline for grant proposals is May 16, 2012.

Contact Rick Keister at rkeister@allianceforthebay.org for more information about the Local Government Advisory Committee.