As EPA and the Bay area states face off over proposed new federal pollution limits for the nation's largest estuary, some state officials, farm lobbyists, and other are complaining loudly about the cost. It's too costly to upgrade sewage treatment plants, they say, or fence cattle out of streams.
Well, pollution has a high cost, too. And a healthy Chesapeake Bay is incredibly valuable -- and not just as a cultural and historical touchstone, and a natural wonder. It is also a generator of incomes that people rely on to survive. A sick Bay threatens the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people.
Here are some figures to consider:
* The Chesapeake Bay has been valued at over 1 trillion dollars related to fishing, tourism, property values and shipping activities.(1)
* These economic impacts are not restricted to the tidal regions of the Bay watershed. Nearly 2 million people go fishing in Pennsylvania each year, contributing over $ 1.6 billion to the economy. (3)
* Roughly 8 million wildlife watchers spent $636 million, $960 million and $1.4 billion in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, respectively in 2006 on trip-related expenses and equipment.(4)
* Recreational boating is also a strong economic force in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia. The total impact on the Maryland economy from recreational boating is estimated to be about $2.03 billion and 35,025 jobs.(5) Similarly, Pennsylvania residents spend $1.7 billion on boating annually. (6) A recent study in Hampton, Virginia found that resident and non-resident boaters were responsible for $55 million in economic impact to this city. (7)
So next time you hear about the cost of controlling pollution, consider these numbers and think about the price tag of doing nothing and watching these water-related industries sink.
By Tom Pelton
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
(With many thanks to my colleague Mike Gerel who performed the research to find these numbers)
(1) Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development. 1989. Economic Importance of the Chesapeake Bay. 2004 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Economic Panel Report, “Saving a National Treasure: Financing the Cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay,” at p. 9.
(2) NOAA 2008. 2008 Fisheries Economics of the U.S. http://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/st5/publication/econ/2008/MA_ALL_Econ.pdf
(3) Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.
(4) U.S. Department of the Interior, Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Census Bureau. 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Associated Recreation.
(5) Lipton, Doug. 2007. Economic Impact of Maryland Boating in 2007. University of Maryland Sea Grant Program.
(7) Virginia Institute of Marine Science. 2009. Assessment of the Economic Impacts of Recreational Boating in the City of Hampton. http://web.vims.edu/adv/econ/MRR2009_2.pdf
(Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Program)