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by Diane Bernard, Public News Service – MD

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – This week, Congress passed the Moving Forward Act, which includes $3 billion for coastal restoration projects. Its backers say the House bill would give a much-needed boost to cleanup efforts for the Chesapeake Bay.

Chris Moore, senior regional ecosystem scientist with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says projects on parts of the bay in Maryland and Virginia are building up shorelines and habitats to improve flood resiliency and minimize storm-water runoff.

He points out that funding is especially important to support oyster habitats, also a major part of the local economy.

“These underwater ecosystems are extremely important from a water quality perspective, from an economic perspective,” says Moore. “And also, we’re looking now, more and more, about how oysters can help protect vital infrastructure in the face of sea-level rise and climate change.”

The $1.5 trillion bill also includes money for Great Lakes restoration and support for communities of color. However, it faces an uphill battle in the Republican-controlled Senate, as Leader Mitch McConnell has called it “pointless political theater.”

Director of the Ocean Defense Initiative, Jean Flemma, says the pandemic has prompted a loss in seafood markets for fishermen.

In the Chesapeake Bay states, the oyster industry is in crisis because so many restaurants are closed due to the novel coronavirus. While some of those markets are starting to reopen, she says the fishing industry and coastal communities need support.

“Many coastal communities have been hit by a loss of tourism, due to the restrictions on traveling,” says Flemma. “They’ve been hit by a loss of fishing-industry jobs.”

A National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration report finds that every one million dollars spent on coastal restoration creates about 15 jobs.