AT RISK: THE BAY POLLUTION DIET:
More Dangerous to Lose than to Win
t was a record-setting summer that dealt a blow to water quality. But last
December when EPA issued a Bay pollution diet, known formally as a Total
Maximum Daily Load or TMDL, and when the Bay states submitted their
individual plans to meet the science-based pollution limits specified in the diet,
the Chesapeake Bay, its thousands of rivers and streams, the 17 million people
who live in the six-state region, and the thousands of critters who depend on
clean water found themselves squarely in the sweet spot.
After decades of fits and starts, consensus, common sense, and compromise prevailed at both the federal and the state levels. And as a result, Bay restoration
could actually be poised to take off. CBF, its members and partners, the press, and
even many who will be asked to do more to reduce pollution cheered and pondered what this means to them.
While we have seen actual in-the-water improvements like crabs rebounding,
native oysters showing increasing signs of resilience, and underwater grasses flourishing in some parts of the Bay, the citizens and governments in this part of the
country proclaimed that they want a saved Bay and are ready, willing, and able to
do what it takes to achieve that vision.
In early July, the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council—the governors of the Bay
states, the Administrator of EPA, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, and the
Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission—gathered in Richmond for its
annual meeting. At that meeting, Council members reported that much progress
has been made in the last two years, and their commitment to implement the pollution diet, though costly, was firm. Maryland Governor O’Malley even said,
“While it is very, very true that cleaning the Bay is expensive, letting her die is
even more expensive.”
Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett spoke about his state’s continuing efforts to
improve the Bay’s health, saying, “The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, and
we are working hard with our neighboring states and federal partners to restore
the Bay to its previous pristine condition.”
Virginia Governor McDonnell acknowledged broad agreement on the goals of the
pollution diet and underscored the critical importance of the federal government’s chipping in to defray the costs.