Where Are We in the Clean Up?

I’ve never been afraid to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. Granted, I only moved to Annapolis about two years ago, but I talk to people all the time who were afraid 10, 20, 30 years ago to step foot in the Bay (except for maybe Bernie Fowler). 

This perception of a 'dirty Bay' is changing, and for good reason: The Chesapeake Bay is getting cleaner due to the mandated clean-up plan. Under the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, watershed states are required to implement 60 percent of practices to reduce nutrient pollution and sediments flowing into the Bay by this year and 100 percent by 2025. 

In June 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation released its Chesapeake Bay Blueprint Progress Report, which evaluates the short-term progress made by the six states and the District of Columbia to meet the longer-term pollution reduction goals. This report highlights the significant progress we have made toward these goals. It also highlights shortcomings so that we can direct our energy and take corrective action to make these improvements before 2025.  For example, we see progress in areas like reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants and factories, while almost all of the states are behind in meeting their urban and suburban runoff goals.

State By State

While Virginia is on track to meet its phosphorus goal for agriculture and installed 6.7 million linear feet of stream exclusion fencing, it is slightly off track for nitrogen and sediment reductions. At the Coalition, we realize the importance of agriculture best management practices in order to reduce agriculture runoff to the Bay.  This is why we are launching a campaign called Our Water, which will focus on increasing clean water conservation funding in Virginia for the agricultural sector, so that farmers are able to install forest buffers and other conservation practices for little or no cost.

Maryland is slightly off track in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture and for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment in urban/suburban areas, but efforts to upgrade sewage treatment plants are on track, with 67 upgraded so far. In order for Maryland to meet its 2025 goals, the state needs to implement more stormwater reduction practices in urban/suburban areas. Reducing runoff from rain events will prevent the amount of pollution entering Maryland waterways and eventually the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, it is important that the state continue to stay strong on septic system requirements and upgrades.

Pennsylvania is has the most ground to make up when it comes to meeting its 2025 goals. To address this, Pennsylvania instituted a Reboot Plan, which includes a goal to plant 95,000 acres of forest buffers and inspect 10% of farms for nutrient/manure management plans. One of the main issues in Pennsylvania is budget short falls that are reducing the investment needed in agencies and technical services at the state and county levels. The Coalition will be working in Pennsylvania in order to ensure increased funding at the state-level for clean water goals.

But Where's The Good News?

The good news is: the clean-up is working. Wastewater treatment plants are being upgraded, conservation practices to reduce runoff are being installed, the submerged aquatic vegetation is returning to the Bay, and wildlife populations are increasing. The bad news is that we still have a lot of progress to make and the current Federal Administration is threatening to dismantle our cooperative clean-up plan.  In fact, President Trump proposed to zero out funding for the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program in his fiscal year 2018 budget.

It is important to remember that the states cannot achieve these goals without support, and that the federal funding they rely on to make progress is under attack. Without these resources, the states stand to lose millions of dollars for on the ground restoration projects that are improving local communities. The Coalition will continue to work with members of Congress to ensure the restoration effort continues and critical federal funding is restored.

Remember, 11 million people get their drinking water from the Chesapeake Bay watershed. We urge you to contact your Member of Congress and ask them to support the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

To learn more about the Coalition’s work to ensure the clean-up continues, click here.

Chanté Coleman is the director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition.