The increased investment is about so much
more than just money. It’s about securing a
productive economy; a flourishing way of
life; and clean, healthy waters for wildlife
and future generations across the region.
The additional $28 million for Pennsylvania
and all investments in proven agricultural
conservation practices are critical to the
restoration of the Bay. But they also provide
additional benefits: Many of these practices improve soil health and mitigate the
impacts of climate change.
Healthy soil can store more carbon and retain
more water than degraded soil. Water that
percolates into the ground and stays there
limits storm-related runoff and helps plants
find nourishment even in periods of drought.
In short, agricultural pollution reduction
and climate change mitigation can be two
sides of the same coin.
We are making great progress in restoring
the Bay and its rivers and streams. Clear
water, rebounding grasses, and abundant
catches of crabs last summer tell a good
story. But it is not the only story.
In both Maryland and Virginia, there have
been recent challenges to laws long on the
books to protect some of the most sensitive
lands—the areas along the edges, where
land and water meet.
Maryland’s General Assembly enacted the
Critical Area Act in 1984, more than three-decades ago. Its purpose is to protect all
land within 1,000 feet of the state’s tidal
waters and wetlands.
Four years later, in 1988, the Virginia
General Assembly passed the Chesapeake
Bay Preservation Act. Its purpose is to
improve water quality in the Chesapeake
Bay and other waters of the Commonwealth
by requiring the use of effective land-man-
agement and land-use planning.
Both of these seminal pieces of Bay legislation, each critical to preserving lands that
serve as natural filters, are under threat.
Maryland: Deep Cove Creek
A Maryland developer, Snyder Development,
is proposing to build a subdivision in the
critical area on the edges of Deep Cove
Creek in Churchton, Maryland (more on
page 23). As written, the Critical Area
Law allows for only one home on the
land. Snyder is proposing to build 11. The
developer’s strategy to obtain approval is,
at the very least, troubling. He argues he
should be allowed to transfer development
rights from other noncontiguous parcels
of land in the critical area and concentrate them in another location within the
BLUE CARBON: The carbon stored in coastal ecosystems is called blue carbon. In the
southern Bay, intertidal salt marshes can hold significant quantities of carbon in the soil
beneath the vegetation. Underwater grasses throughout the Bay and its tributaries can do
the same. Because coastal ecosystems are so critical to mitigating climate change, we must
work to protect and restore them as sea levels rise.
NEW LOADS: The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint requires the region to achieve specific reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution by 2025. While the region
is not on track to meet its 2017 mid-point goal, there is every reason to think we can get
back on track. What happens when the Blueprint concludes in 2025? The simple, but hard-to-achieve, answer is that once we attain our reduction goals, we must stay within them. We
cannot add more pollution.
If we fail, we will reverse progress and suffer all the environmental, economic, and human
health ills from which we are only beginning to recover. But, time will forever march on. When
a city’s rising population necessitates a new sewage treatment plant or a state proposes to
expand highways, what happens? That new sewage plant or that expanded highway would
be what is called a “new load.” Every new load will have to be offset. Even now, we are
seeing threats from new loads—from the forest loss and transportation systems related to
fracking or the ammonia from animal waste decomposition. These sources of pollution were
not considered when the Blueprint was established. And, they, too must be offset.