THE CHESAPEAKE CLEAN WATER BLUEPRINT
EPA’s pollution limits and the states plans
comprise the Chesapeake Clean Water
Blueprint. What makes this Blueprint differ-
ent—and encouraging—is that everyone is
asked to do their part. The jurisdictions have
begun to implement their now-detailed plans
and work towards two-year interim goals. We
can measure the progress in the first set of
interim goals. And, EPA can and will impose
penalties for failure.
Just about everyone cheered that the Clean
Water Act would do what it intended to do:
reduce pollution and restore water quality.
Additionally, through our January 2012
report Debunking the “Job Killer” Myth: How
Pollution Limits Encourage Jobs in the
Chesapeake Bay Region, we also determined
that implementing the Blueprint will put
hundreds of thousands of people to work in
the Bay states.
Our Bay: The Moment in Time
By Donald Boesch
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation is developing a strategy to ensure that the Bay
restoration goals are fully met by the 2025 deadline. It’s being called “A Moment
in Time.” During discussions among CBF trustees, I made the point that we are not
just facing a moment in time, but what I believe to be the moment in time,
because I don’t think we will get another chance if we fail.
I have spent nearly 30 years as a scientist doing research on the Chesapeake Bay
or facilitating the research of others. I have seen science develop and mature to the
point that we know more about the Chesapeake than any comparable coastal
ecosystem in the world.
We know why the Bay has become degraded and what we need to do to restore
it. While science is still needed to guide and monitor the recovery, our diagnosis
and treatment regimen are as solid and reliable as they come.
But we as a society have repeatedly failed to complete the required regimen.
In 1987, the Bay states and federal government formally committed to reduce
nutrient pollution by 40 percent by the year 2000 in order to restore degraded
water quality and the health of the Bay. We failed miserably, but recommitted to
achieve the goal by 2010, guided by some better numbers.
So remorseful were the states and the feds back in 2000 that they committed that
if our voluntary approaches were not successful by 2010, mandatory requirements
under the Clean Water Act would be forced. Fear of such tough medicine was
meant to spur us on. While we made some progress, by 2010 we had not gotten
much past half the way on our nutrient-pollution goal.
It’s now time for the tough medicine.
We have entered the mandatory phase in which the U.S. Environmental Protection
Agency is requiring the states to develop plans to reduce pollution to Total
Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs), a determined amount that the Bay can tolerate
and remain healthy.
This TMDL goal—not all that different than the one set for 2010—has been pushed
back 15 years to 2025. Yet, some state and local governments are acting like this
is a new and arbitrary imposition rather than a lingering deficiency that must now
12 Fall 2012 ; cbf.org
be addressed. Agribusiness and development groups have even gone to court to
challenge the whole premise of the TMDL.
Mind you, the new goal date is 38 years after the states and federal government
first committed to a goal, and 25 years after the first goal was missed and the
parties committed to move to mandatory approaches if they failed to meet the
That’s why I think that this is not just a moment in time, but the only moment our
society will ever have to restore the Bay.
As a scientist, I am trained to rely on empirical evidence rather than wishful thinking. There is just no evidence for concluding that we will have another chance
after 2025 given the record of performance and additional mounting pressures
that will result from population growth and climate change.
A whole generation will have passed during the struggle for bay restoration, with most
of the public and those in charge in 2025 with no recollection of a healthy Bay and
previous commitment. They will be more willing to accept conditions as they are.
It doesn’t have to be that way. We know what needs to be done and I believe that
we can find effective and more efficient ways to accomplish them.
It starts with taking responsibility for curbing one’s own pollution, whether one is
a farmer, developer, industry, or family. Collective investments through the
Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund (also known as the “flush fee”) are beginning
to yield enormous benefits, but it will cost more to complete the job.
Sewage sludge and animal wastes can be recycled to fertilize crops, but this use
must be better managed to achieve that end, rather just waste disposal on the
land. We need to limit sprawling development with household wastes drained into
pits in the backyard. And, we need more we need more wetlands and oysters to
clean up the pollution we can’t control.
It’s that simple, really. We have less than 14 years and we—and only we—can
restore the Chesapeake Bay.
CBF Trustee Dr. Donald Boesch is Professor of Marine Science and President of
the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.
This oped was also published in the February 11, 2012 issue of The Capital