MCBP Receives $1.8M For Restoration Projects

OCEAN CITY – More than $1.8 million in federal funding will allow a local conservation organization to initiate new programs and projects.

Last Friday, the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) announced it will be the recipient of federal funding in the amount of more than $1.8 million. The money, made available through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), will allow the organization to accelerate environmental and community restoration goals identified in its Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

“We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to significantly increase and enhance our investments in protecting and improving the environmental conditions in the Coastal Bays watershed,” said MCBP Executive Director Kevin Smith. “BIL funding will allow us to initiate new projects that have been beyond our reach up till now as well as enhance our capacity to continue our priority ongoing efforts.”

He continued, “Climate resilience has already been an increasing focus of our work in recent years and more effectively reaching underserved communities is a challenge we are eager to address.  These BIL funding priorities couldn’t come at a better time for us.”

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, adopted in November 2021, provides 28 longstanding National Estuary Programs (NEPs), including MCBP, a total of $132 million in fiscal years 2022-2026. The local organization reports each of the estuary programs will receive $909,800 annually in BIL funding, distributed by the Environmental Protection Agency. MCBP’s first allocation of more than $1.8 million includes two years of funding through fiscal years 2022 and 2023.

“EPA has placed a priority for NEPs to invest a portion of the funding to address resilience and adaptation to climate change impacts in their watersheds as well as ensuring that some benefits reach disadvantaged communities who may have been historically underserved by environmental programs,” a news release reads. “The roster of investments slated for the first installment of BIL funding range from shoreline restoration in Sinepuxent Bay to stormwater management in Berlin, and from enhancing the program’s inventory of water quality monitoring equipment to expanding an environmental education retreat targeting high school students from underserved communities.”

Among other projects, MCBP plans to use $872,000 in BIL funding to construct a resilient living shoreline along the Sinepuxent Bay, just south of the Verrazano Bridge, as well as $10,000 for the establishment of a Worcester Environmental Training, Leadership and Stewardship (WETLANDS) Retreat, providing students with hands-on, immersive educational experiences in environmental science.

In Berlin, the organization also plans to use $400,000 in BIL funding and $350,000 from the town’s ARPA grant to complete a stormwater retrofit at Franklin, Pine and Nelson streets. It also has plans to direct $110,000 in BIL funding to Berlin’s Hudson Branch restoration design and $10,000 to complete design and permitting of a submerged gravel wetland on Abbey Lane.

The announcement comes roughly a week after the organization announced two new grant programs made possible through BIL funding. MCBP is now accepting proposals for its mini-grant program and research grant program through March 1.

“We are especially pleased to be able to invest some of the BIL funding to ‘pay it forward’ through a new research and community project mini-grant program announced last week,” Smith said. “We hope to continue and expand this offering in the future years of BIL support.”

Planning for the next allocation of BIL funding, expected next fall, has already begun, officials say. MCBP will be assessing its needs and interests, and conducting outreach to its local and state partners to identify priority challenges and opportunities to address in the watershed.

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.