A key conservation program in the Tomales Bay watershed could be set back significantly if Congress approves the Trump administration’s proposed 2018 fiscal year budget this fall.
The Marin Resource Conservation District has undertaken scores of projects at nearly two dozen ranches and dairies aimed at reducing runoff into the bay over the last decade, but funding for the program is slashed as part of proposed cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Unveiled at the end of May, the budget, grandly titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” adds nearly half a trillion dollars to defense spending while cutting $1.4 trillion from Medicaid and another $1.5 trillion from nondefense discretionary funding for cabinet departments and agencies.
Among the discretionary funding cuts are 31 percent of the E.P.A.’s budget, 20 percent of the Department of Agriculture’s budget, 16 percent of the Department of Commerce’s budget—much of that targeting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—and 11 percent of the National Science Foundation’s budget.
The budget specifically eliminates the E.P.A.’s nonpoint source pollution program, which has granted the Marin Resource Conservation District a total of $2 million over the last decade for work around Tomales Bay.
The district has used the funding to help farmers and ranchers take voluntary measures to reduce runoff containing animal waste from their lands. The San Francisco Bay Regional Water Resources Control Board sets requirements for the runoff and other source of pollution to the bay in order to manage levels of pathogens, sediment and mercury.
Nancy Scolari, the district’s executive director, said the federal funding is important because most local and state funding sources—including the county, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust and the Coastal Conservancy—require a matching federal contribution.
“Without this [federal] source, it will be tough for us to respond to the demand for land conservation and stewardship work,” she said. “We have quite a waiting list of projects. I don’t think it will shut us down, but it will likely slow us down.”
About 20 ranches and dairies built new fencing to keep cattle out of streams, restored riparian areas and repaired streambanks, roads, gullies and stream crossings through the program, which has also provided funding for ranch water quality plans, engineering designs and environmental permitting.