Part of what makes the current effort to save the Bay more promising than earlier efforts is an increased level of accountability. A little more than two years ago, the Chesapeake region states were required to create incremental two-year pollution reduction goals and then report on the progress they made in reaching those targets.
The first progress reports are in, and they contain some good news. According to an analysis by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and an environmental coalition called Choose Clean Water, every state made gains. Virginia and Maryland achieved a majority of their recent two-year pollution reduction goals for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. Pennsylvania met four of its 10 "milestone” goals.
"The state... milestones lay out a clear roadmap to restoring the Bay, and the rivers and streams that feed it," said CBF President William C. Baker. "We have begun the journey, and need to take stock on a regular basis of both the progress made and the course corrections necessary to ensure we reach the destination as promised by 2025.”
Virginia exceeded its two year “milestone” cleanup goals in six of nine areas studied, including exceeding its goal for reducing nitrogen pollution from wastewater treatment plants in 2010 and 2011 by more than 20 fold, according to the CBF/Choose Clean Water analysis. The Commonwealth deserves great praise for modernizing its sewage plants and investing in clean water construction projects that create thousands of jobs. On the other hand, Virginia also fell short in its goals to plant cover crops and strips of trees along streams on farms that absorb excess fertilizer, and needs to work harder in these areas, according to the report.
Maryland is also making progress in meeting its Bay cleanup goals. The state achieved its “milestone” goals for reducing pollution in six of eight areas studied by CBF and partners, including greatly exceeding its targets for reducing phosphorus and nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants. Midway through the two-year period, however, the state modified its “milestone” goals for restoring wetlands, planting cover crops, and creating forested buffers along streams on farms –- and would have failed to meet these three goals if it had not lowered the bar. “Maryland adjusted some of its milestone goals…without any explicit public notification or input,” the report notes.
Though making progress, Pennsylvania did not achieve a majority of its milestone goals. The commonwealth had some notable achievements in rebuilding urban streams, improving sewage treatment plants, and planting trees and vegetation along streams to act as natural filters to stop pollution. But Pennsylvania fell short in other areas, and it must redouble its efforts to reduce runoff from agricultural lands and to better control stormwater pollution from urban and suburban communities.
For more details about how the states performed in meeting their two-year "milestone" goals, click here.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(Photo from Chesapeake Bay Program)