Maryland’s U.S. senators and colleagues from across the Chesapeake Bay watershed introduced a bill Friday to create a federal grant program for projects focused on restoring the bay’s fish and wildlife habitats.

The Chesapeake WILD Act aims to replicate a similar program that provides $5 million annually for such projects in the Delaware River basin. The legislation would create a funding stream for work to restore wetlands, improve stream water quality, and plant trees and other vegetation.

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If the grant program is approved, Congress would have to allocate money for it in the appropriations process for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is part of the Department of the Interior.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat who sits on the Appropriations Committee, is the proposal’s lead sponsor. Joining him as co-sponsors are: Democrats Ben Cardin of Maryland, Chris Coons and Tom Carper of Delaware, Tim Kaine and Mark Warner of Virginia, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, plus West Virginia Republican Shelley Moore Capito.

"I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill, and I look forward to working together to secure its passage and provide the Bay with this boost in support,” Van Hollen said in a statement.

Environmental groups said the program could help support a goal to restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by 2025.

“Healthy habitats, like forests and wetlands, are essential to restoring clean water across the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Kristin Reilly, director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, in a statement. “Not only does habitat restoration and protection provide food and shelter to fish and wildlife, but it also reduces flooding and keeps pollution from entering our local waterways.”

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