Five Reasons Why the Chesapeake Bay Program Is Critical to Saving the Bay

  Kramer_George__40702492_ChincoteagueDuskPhoto by George Kramer.

Last week, the Trump Administration issued a preliminary budget that eliminates all funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), a critical part of the state/federal partnership to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams.

But what exactly does the Chesapeake Bay Program do, and how does potentially gutting it affect the health of the Bay?

The CBP is an unusual entity. It's an arm of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but also a partnership of federal, state, and local agencies involved in the work of restoring the Chesapeake Bay, as well as a host of academic and non-profit partners. You can think of it as a large and diverse group working together, organized and partially funded by EPA. And it is responsible for hundreds of actions in the field that help Save the Bay, from rebuilding wetlands, to restoring oyster beds, and so much more.

That leads me to the Five Reasons the Chesapeake Bay Program Is Critical to Saving the Bay:

  1. It's working! At a time when we seem increasingly at odds about how to solve complex problems such as health care or terrorism, the unique collaboration to restore the Chesapeake is making concrete progress. Less pollution is entering the Bay, underwater grasses are thriving in certain areas, the dead zones of low oxygen are shrinking. The crab population is healthy. Even oysters are enjoying a modest comeback. But the recovery is fragile. The Bay Program is the glue holding it all together.

  2. The Program is really a family affair with partners sharing the wealth. The majority of its $73 million annual budget is distributed to the partner states, local governments, colleges, and non-profits for the work they do. They plant trees along streams, build "green infrastructure" in cities and suburbs to slow down and soak up polluted runoff, and help restore and protect oyster reefs. They increase public access to waterways, create habitat for crabs and rockfish, and work with farmers to reduce pollution from manure and fertilizer. The list goes on.

  3. We have the best scientific information and tools, thanks to the Chesapeake Bay Program. Like a sick patient, the Bay needs a scientific diagnosis and treatment. The Bay Program is the doctor of the Chesapeake. It coordinates the monitoring of water quality, the computer modeling of Bay health and progress, and the rest of the science. Eliminating the program would be like throwing away the patient's medical records.

  4. The partnership helps keep six states and the District of Columbia on track to meet their obligations in the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This is the regional plan to restore the Bay. After several decades of failed attempts to meet restoration goals, the jurisdictions agreed in 2010 to hold themselves accountable for reducing pollution in amounts set by science, and to report on their progress every two years. This accountability mechanism is working, with nitrogen pollution falling in nine main tributaries. Eliminate the Bay Program and you could stop this progress.

  5. The Bay Program takes the broad view. Its scientists and planners can see, for instance, how the entire region is developing, and inform individual states for their own land protection strategies. This is especially important for areas downstream of development, since pollution is likely to increase from growth. The Program also tracks how the region is doing to restore fisheries, and the habitat that crabs, fish, and oysters need. In an ecosystem of 64,000 square miles, it is critical to know how the whole system is functioning. No state alone can do this—only the Chesapeake Bay Program.

The Chesapeake Bay Program has been called a model of cooperative federalism, the system of government established in the American Constitution. It is the federal and state governments working together to solve a regional problem. Rather than eliminate it, we should be supporting it.

—Tom Zolper, CBF's Assistant Director of Media Relations

To say that now is the Chesapeake Bay's moment in time has never been more true. Take action right now to urge Congress to reject the Trump Administration’s budget proposal and protect our Bay and rivers and streams.

 


Chesapeake Bay's Future Imperiled

The following first appeared in The Virginian-Pilot.

Lafayette River bloom 1200
An algal bloom in Norfolk's Lafayette River. The health of the Bay and its rivers and streams is improving, but if draconian cuts to the Chesapeake Bay Program are enacted, scenes such as this might become the norm. Photo by Christy Everett/CBF Staff.

I'm angry and I'm upset. President Donald Trump has proposed something terrible. I'm not willing to trade a healthy Chesapeake Bay for a wall on the Mexican border.

Trump's budget proposal zeroes out the EPA's funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program: from $73 million to $0. You don't have to take my word for this: Please read the president's statement at the top of "America First, A Budget Blueprint to make America Great Again," then skip to page 41.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure.

In the late 1970s, headlines declared that the bay was dying. Since then, government at all levels, business, and individuals have rolled up their sleeves and worked hard to "Save the Bay."

The effort has been bipartisan and, when tested in federal court, declared a model of cooperative federalism. It's working. The bay is recovering, but our progress is fragile, and the Chesapeake is far from saved.

The road to recovery, while clearly laid out, will not be easy and needs strong federal participation. The EPA Bay Program makes grants to states and municipalities to reduce pollution, monitors water quality, and coordinates the state/federal partnership that is the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. The bay program's participation is absolutely essential.

Fortunately, there are checks and balances in our government. Congress appropriates and passes the budget, and we have time between now and the new fiscal year (which starts on Oct. 1) to make sure Congress restores funding for the bay.

Those of us fortunate enough to live in Hampton Roads have a deep connection to the environment. The James, Nansemond, Elizabeth, and the Lynnhaven Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay flow back and forth into each other.

We cross bridges and crawl through tunnels to get from one place to another. The water defines us.

We have celebrated recent signs of recovery in our waters. Oysters and crabs are rebounding, lush beds of underwater grasses thrive in some areas, and the water was so clear last summer that you could see the bottom six to eight feet below the surface. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's most recent State of the Bay Report gave the estuary its highest score in the report's 18-year history. But, that score, a C-, is a stark reminder that much work remains.

The bay's nascent recovery comes after years of hard work. In his 1984 State of the Union address, President Ronald Reagan said, "Though this is a time of budget constraints, I have requested for EPA one of the largest percentage budget increases of any agency. We will begin the long, necessary effort to clean up a productive recreational area and a special national resource — the Chesapeake Bay."

Since then, every administration has worked with the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (from Cooperstown, N.Y., to Virginia Beach), the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and many similar organizations to "Save the Bay."

Trump's proposed budget zeroing out the EPA's bay program is an outrage. If passed by Congress, this could drive a stake in the heart of the Chesapeake's recovery.

Cuts to the EPA program could cause the bay and our rivers to revert to the national disgrace they were in the 1980s: fouled waters, sickly fish populations, and threats to human health. Zeroing out efforts to assist in restoring the Chesapeake Bay in favor of a wall makes no sense.

This is important. Please join me in sending a serious message to Congress that the Chesapeake Bay is a priority for Hampton Roads and the states all around the bay.

This is not about politics, it's about being good stewards of our environment. It's not about negotiating; it's a moral issue.

For assistance in contacting your congressional delegation please go to www.cbf.org/findmyreps.

—Harry Lester, Chairman, CBF Board of Trustees

More than 8,000 Bay lovers have taken action by calling on Congress to stand up for the Chesapeake Bay watershed. If you have not yet signed our petition, please do so now. If you have already, thank you. Please be sure to go one step further and call your congressional representatives. Click here to find their phone numbers. A clean and healthy Bay now and for generations to come depends on your voice!


Photo of the Week: The River Enriched Us

20170223_172121

This photo was taken at Church Point in St. Mary's City, Maryland. St. Mary's City was the fourth permanent English colony in America and the first capital of Maryland settled in 1634.

What the Bay means to me: I was reared here on Horseshoe Bay with my siblings. We lived next to, on, and in the St. Mary's River. The river enriched us in many ways, but most especially we learned the interconnection of all things. Living here raised our spiritual awareness and the realization that the most powerful thing in the universe is Love.

—Wick Jackson

Ensure that Wick and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Director of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


The Clean Power Plan: How It Could Affect Chesapeake Bay Restoration

  Smokestack-air-pollution-odec-iStock_695x352Photo courtesy of iStock.

What happened?
In 2005, despite the significant body of scientific evidence showing a correlation between increased carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and increasing global temperatures, EPA refused to develop regulations curbing the emission of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide from power plants, cars, and trucks.

Because of growing concern over climate change and sea level rise, several states, local governments, and private organizations brought a lawsuit to require EPA to create regulations designed to curb the emission of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, methane, and hydrofluorocarbons). In 2007, the Supreme Court held that given the clear scientific evidence for human-caused climate change and the potential for adverse human health impacts, EPA had the authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Click here to learn more about Massachusetts v. EPA, 549 U.S. 497 (2007).

Following the Supreme Court's direction, on August 3, 2015, EPA issued a new regulation under the Clean Air Act called the Clean Power Plan for Existing Power Plants ("The Plan"). 

Several types of power plants (coal, nuclear, gas, oil, hydroelectric) generate electricity for our homes and businesses. The Plan focuses on coal-burning power plants. Several lawsuits have been filed against EPA challenging the Plan. Those lawsuits are still pending. 

Now, President Trump has signaled that he wants to revoke the Plan. That could be attempted in several different ways, but all would require that the public be given notice of and the ability to comment on EPA's change in position. Citizens, states, or industry could later sue the government if they believed the agency's decision was arbitrary, capricious, or illegal.

How could elimination of the Clean Power Plan affect Bay restoration?
The Plan gives states three ways to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants within their borders. The most effective way would be to make the power plants more efficient in generating electricity; that is, make them burn less fuel to generate the same amount of electricity. Making these plants more fuel efficient or even shutting them down would mean the plants would emit less nitrogen oxides (NOx). Because NOx is a major source of nitrogen pollution to the Bay, implementation of the Power Plan would greatly improve Bay health. (See Bay TMDL, Appendix L and Eshleman, K., et al., "Declining nitrate-N yields in the Upper Potomac River Basin: What is really driving progress under Chesapeake Bay restoration?")

Once EPA decides to act, it is expected to tell the courts considering the Plan that it wants to reevaluate the rule so all litigation should be suspended. Then, it is likely that the agency will issue a new rule either reversing the earlier finding that greenhouse gases from power plants are causing climate change that is harming humans or revising the rule significantly to weaken its impact on coal-fired power plants. If the Trump Administration takes such action, it is expected that some states and private groups will sue EPA. A protracted legal fight is expected. 

CBF's legal and policy teams are monitoring EPA's actions with respect to the Clean Power Plan and will take the appropriate actions if required to preserve the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint and ensure Bay restoration moves forward. 

—Jon A. Mueller, CBF Vice President for Litigation

Click here to learn about what you can do right now to support clean water across our region.

 


Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulations: How It Could Affect Chesapeake Bay Restoration

Schlyer-cbr-9353Photo by Krista Schlyer/iLCP.

What happened?
On January 30, 2017, President Trump issued an Executive Order stating that whenever any federal agency issues a new regulation or policy, it must also eliminate two existing regulations or policies. Click here to read the Presidential Executive Order on Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs. The order is written very broadly and could apply to every new or updated regulation or agency policy statement. The President also ordered that the cost of implementing new regulations or policies be zero. 

How is this Executive Order potentially problematic for the Bay's cleanup plan?
Two federal laws provide the primary means for reducing Bay pollution: the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. Congress empowered EPA to meet the requirements of these laws by developing regulations after considering public and state input. Many of those regulations must be updated from time to time to meet changes in technology that can further reduce pollution or to reflect new scientific knowledge. 

Following the Clean Water Act, EPA worked with the Bay jurisdictions to determine how much pollution was safe for people and all the life within the Bay, including rockfish, crabs, oysters and other species, many upon which we depend for food and jobs. The states developed plans to meet those pollution limits for sources within their borders. We call the federal pollution limits and the state plans, together, the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint. The deadline for completing the Blueprint is 2025. 

In 2017, the pollution limits that are a part of the Blueprint, are due to be updated. It is possible that the update will be covered by the Executive Order. If this occurs, EPA would have to eliminate two existing regulations and ensure that the cost of meeting the new Blueprint pollution limits is zero. Given the amount of pollution to be reduced over six states and the District of Columbia, it would be extremely difficult for EPA to meet that test. EPA therefore could decide to not update the Blueprint, which would limit the effectiveness of the states' plans and lead states to potentially not meet the 2025 deadline.

Even if the Blueprint is not covered by the Executive Order, certain Clean Air Act regulations essential for the Bay's recovery are subject to the order.

The Blueprint recognizes that millions of pounds of nitrogen land directly in the Bay from air pollution. That nitrogen comes largely from burning fossil fuels to, for example, provide electricity and power our cars. The Blueprint provides that new Clean Air Act regulations would limit nitrogen from those sources. Some of those regulations must be updated. Because of the order, however, EPA may not improve those rules and the amount of nitrogen from the air may not be decreased sufficiently to meet Blueprint goals and a restored Bay. 

Blueprint success depends upon EPA's ability to fulfill its obligations under these federal laws. However, there are many different ways the order could limit EPA's ability to act—and make it harder for Bay states to hit their pollution-reduction goals. Because, in addition to its legal implications, the Executive Order contradicts the essential partnership that EPA entered into with the states through the Blueprint. The states are relying on EPA's help, and if this order leads EPA to act contrary to the partnership, it will make it that much harder for the states to clean up their local rivers and streams and the Bay.

CBF's legal and policy teams are monitoring the effect of the Executive Order and will take the appropriate actions if required to preserve the Blueprint and ensure Bay restoration. 

—Jon A. Mueller, CBF Vice President for Litigation

Click here to learn about what you can do right now to support clean water across our region.

 


Marylanders Agree: Hands off Our Oyster Sanctuaries

With more than six million residents, Maryland is a melting pot of diverse citizens, with different political leanings, religious beliefs, and racial backgrounds. Differences aside, all Marylanders are affected by the health of the state's rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.

Integral to the health of the Bay is the mighty oyster. A keystone species of the Bay, a single adult oyster can filter up to 50 gallons of water a day. In addition to their filtering prowess, oysters settle on one another and grow, forming reefs that provide shelter for other critters.

Despite their hallmark status in the Bay's ecosystem, the native oyster population is just a fraction of what it once was as a result of disease, pollution, and overharvesting. In 2010, Maryland and other Bay states joined together to increase the native oyster population, establishing sanctuary reefs to allow oysters to proliferate unencumbered by harvesting. These reefs grew and expanded, with the estimated number of oysters in the Bay more than doubling between 2010 and 2014.

A recent poll conducted by a bipartisan research team found Marylanders understand and appreciate this success, with overwhelming support to maintain existing Chesapeake Bay oyster sanctuaries.

The numbers speak for themselves:Oyster Poll Results Graphic-1200

This strong support exists across party lines, as approximately 91 percent of registered Democrats, 89 percent of Independents, and 82 percent of Republicans support sanctuaries. Moreover, public support for the sanctuaries actually increased after the survey summarized the oyster industry's reasons for wanting to expand harvesting, rising from 88 percent to 91 percent.

This consensus is quite a contrast to the recently submitted proposal by the Maryland Oyster Advisory Commission to let the oyster industry harvest nearly 1,000 acres of oyster reefs which currently are off-limits to harvesting.

Currently, the Maryland General Assembly is considering a bill (HB 924) which would require the state to hold off on any alterations of the oyster sanctuaries until a scientific assessment of the oyster stock is completed in 2018.

The success of Maryland and the Bay, North America's largest estuary and a true national treasure, are mutually interdependent. Shaping more than just the state's coastline, Maryland's economy, culture, and history are covered with the Bay's fingerprints. No critter is more important to this success than the oyster. And while the recent State of the Bay report finds the health of the Bay is rebounding, it remains a system dangerously out of balance.

Those who call the Old Line State home might have their differences, but Marylanders across the board agree on this: Our oyster sanctuaries are worth protecting.

—Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate

Take action right now to urge Maryland legislators to protect oyster sanctuaries and the value they provide to clean water and countless marine species.


2017 Save the Bay Photo Contest Begins Today!

2017PhotoContestwLogo"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I'm going to take tomorrow."  Imogen Cunningham

What photo will you take tomorrow? Or what did you take last week? As CBF celebrates our 50th year, we want to see how you see the Bay and all its rivers and streams.

Our 2017 Photo Contest is now open to both amateur and professional photographers. Show us your vision of the Chesapeake watershed—from Pennsylvania to Virginia, from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Eastern Shore. All photos must include water from the Chesapeake Bay or a river or stream within the Bay watershed. 

Click here to submit your photo before the March 24 deadline and enter to win a prize!

A panel of CBF employees will judge entries on subject matter, composition, focus, lighting, uniqueness, and impact. The public will have the opportunity to vote online for their favorite photo in the Viewers' Choice Gallery. Winners receive cash prizes!

  • First Prize: $500
  • Second Prize: $250
  • Third Prize: $150
  • Viewers' Choice: $100

All winners will also receive a one-year CBF membership and will have their photos displayed in various CBF publications, such as our website, e-newsletters, and magazine. The first-prize photo will be featured in CBF's 2018 calendar. All winners will be notified of the outcome, and their images will be posted on the CBF website by May 31, 2017.

Click here to submit to the 2017 Save the Bay Photo Contest before the March 24 deadline!

So get outside and get inspired by the Chesapeake waters we all love. And don't forget those cameras or smartphones when you do! Hurry, the submission deadline is Friday, March 24, 2017, at 5 p.m. 

We look forward to seeing your pictures!

—Jen Wallace, CBF's Managing Editor

Click here to read the official contest rules.


Five Important Advocacy Actions You Can Do Right Now

KarineAigner_iLCPPhoto by Karine Aigner/iLCP.

The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working. By all metrics, we are seeing progress. Citizens, businesses, and governments are rolling up their sleeves to reduce pollution. And it is working.

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's Bay Report card issued last spring, our 2016 State of the Bay report, and the Bay Program's Bay Barometer all document improvements. Bay grasses and crabs are up, and the dead zone is trending smaller. But the recovery is fragile, and many clean water advocates are wondering what they can do to help progress continue.

In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that citizens let their elected officials know that clean water should be an important priority. That cleaning up local rivers and streams will reduce risks to human health, create jobs, and benefit local economies.

It is very important that our state legislators make the needed investments to reduce pollution. That our governors speak up for the Blueprint. And that our federal representatives ensure EPA's full participation in guiding and implementing the Blueprint.

Help ensure the Bay and its rivers and streams remain a priority. Do these five important things right now to Save the Bay:

  1. Find out who represents you by clicking here

  2. Call your state representatives and urge them to support investments in clean water restoration and saving the Bay.

  3. Call your governor and urge him or her to support investments in clean water restoration and saving the Bay.

  4. Call your federal representatives and urge them to seek federal investments for clean water restoration and saving the Bay.

  5. Contact your friends and neighbors and urge them to do the same.

Bonus Action: One of the most effective ways to influence a politician is a personal visit to their office or a town hall meeting. While that takes time and might be out of your comfort zone, they will take note. And we'd be happy to help you plan a visit to their local office. Just click here and shoot us an e-mail.

Done the right way, citizens can have an impact. Elected officials do listen to their constituents. When contacting your representatives, be sure to explain why clean water is important to you. If they have supported clean water efforts, thank them and ask for their continued support. If they haven't been supporters, encourage them to do so in the future.

In these uncertain times, there is one thing that is certain, you can make a difference. Speak up and save the Bay.

 —Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Right now a critical part of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup is facing a massive budget cut! Stand up now to urge Congress to protect the Bay, rivers, and streams we all love.

 


Photo of the Week: Late January Snow Along the Bay

Snowy Tree 2017
[Taken just after late January's snowfall in Huntingtown, Maryland.]

Almost every day I walk down to the beach and take pictures of the amazing sunrise. On this day the snowfall was so beautiful and had stuck to everything . . . which made this weeping willow even more beautiful.

I simply LOVE living on the Bay and sharing the beauty with everyone.

—Eve Shoemaker

Ensure that Eve and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Director of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!


Photo of the Week: Winter on the Chesapeake

Christopher Riedel

McDaniel, Maryland, on January 7. 

The Bay has always been a part of who I am. I grew up on boats and have been to many marinas. I love interacting with the Bay through fishing, crabbing, boating, kayaking, and just observing wildlife and the environment around me.

—Chris Riedel

Ensure that Chris and future generations continue to enjoy extraordinary sights and places like these along the Chesapeake. Support the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—the plan to Save the Bay and its waters! 

Do you have a favorite Chesapeake photo you'd like to submit to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Photo of the Week contest? Send your digital images to CBF's Director of Digital Media, Emmy Nicklin, at enicklin [at sign] cbf.org, along with a brief description of where and when you took the photo, and what the Chesapeake Bay means to you. We look forward to seeing your photos!