Record rainfall this spring and summer
accelerated the flow of the Bay’s
three systemic pollutants: nitrogen,
phosphorus, and sediment. The more
visible debris (trees, sheds, plastic
drums, etc.) was a stark reminder that
the Bay is far from clean. We have
much work yet to do.
This is a critical time for Bay
restoration. We are at the halfway point
in the historic clean-up plan we call
the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.
Started in 2010 as a settlement to CBF
litigation, the plan is a comprehensive,
collaborative effort by six states and
the District of Columbia scheduled for
completion by 2025.
The Blueprint includes science-based
targets for reducing pollution, state-
specific plans to achieve those limits,
progress, and consequences for failure.
CBF’s recent mid-point assessment
found success, but also troubling
trends. And, we know that the second
half of any long-term effort is usually
the most difficult.
On the positive side, the goals for
reducing phosphorus and sediment
are largely on track. Sewage plants
are discharging cleaner effluent, and
farmers are reducing polluted runoff
and more effectively holding valuable
soil in place.
On the downside, the nitrogen-reduction goal was missed, and
Pennsylvania continues to be
responsible for most of the shortfall.
The Commonwealth must immediately
enact legislation to provide a dedicated
source of funding to improve water
quality in its streams and rivers for
the benefit of all its residents, as well
as those downstream in Maryland
and Virginia. If it does not, EPA must
impose penalties under federal law.
Additionally, Exelon, the owners of the
Conowingo Dam, need to do more to
clean up the pollution problems related
to the dam. For decades, CBF has been
fighting to reduce pollution coming
down the Susquehanna. Recently, CBF
joined two lawsuits, one in federal
court in Washington, D.C., and one in
state court in Baltimore, so we can
have our members’ voices heard.
All of the states must do more as well to
meet their nitrogen-reduction promises.
Make no mistake. As we look to the
second half of the regional cleanup, CBF
is accelerating its education, restoration,
and advocacy efforts to help get the job
done—to truly make history by saving
the Chesapeake Bay. We have never
been more mindful of the need to finish
the job as we sadly see Lake Erie, once
declared clean, more polluted than ever.
William C. Baker
CBF President Will Baker
When the rains come, as they have this summer, everything upstream moves down to the
Bay. The Susquehanna River, seen above at York Haven looking south, brought not only
visible debris down to the Bay, but also invisible pollution like phosphorus and nitrogen.