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Bay Milestone Update: A Mixed Bag

Satellite mapHalfway through the latest Chesapeake Bay cleanup milestone goals, some of the Bay states are making good pollution-reduction progress, others not so much.

That’s the conclusion of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and the Choose Clean Water Coalition (CCWC), which analyzed the progress, or lack of it, made by the Bay jurisdictions to meet their 2012-2013 cleanup milestones. The two groups issued a progress report today.

Generally, the groups found that all the Bay states and Washington, D.C., are making headway in meeting cleanup goals, but no jurisdiction is on track to implement all the pollution reduction practices it committed to achieve in its 2013 milestone goals.

“This interim analysis is important because it celebrates the areas where states are exceeding the goals, but also shines a light on areas needing improvement,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “While no state met the mark, and Pennsylvania and Delaware missed on half or more of the goals we evaluated, all jurisdictions had the opportunity to alter their plans to reach their 2013 pollution reduction goals. That information, however, is not currently available.”

A bit of background: In 2009 the Bay states, after having missed numerous pollution-reduction goals in the past, created two-year milestones designed to be transparent and provide accountability for taking specific, measurable steps to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment going into the Bay. Today’s report evaluates the interim progress toward achieving the states’ 2012-13 milestone goals. To see the full report and how each of the states is doing, click here.

Most consider the milestones crucial to the success of Bay restoration. The milestones set interim IStock_000000891221Large cleanup benchmarks and require progress reports every two years to gauge whether the region is on track to restore the Bay and its rivers, or needs to adjust and ramp up efforts to make up for shortfalls. Together with science-based pollution limits and state-specific plans, the milestones comprise the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state plant to restore the Bay by 2025.

CBF and CCWC looked at different pollution-reduction practices in each state in three general categories—agricultural runoff, urban/suburban sources, and wastewater treatment. The practices and the milestone goals to implement them are based on their potential to provide substantial nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution reductions and offer lessons for moving forward.

Filephotocowstream“We are encouraged that states are working to reach their milestones and, in some cases, significant progress has been made,” said CCWC Co-chair Hilary Harp Falk said. “However, after reviewing the data, it is clear that we need verification protocols to help local, state, and federal programs ensure that practices are properly designed, installed, and maintained over time.”

In addition, CBF and CCWC believe that the next set of milestones, from 2014-15, should be Purceville STP 082410 120 reported at the river basin or county level, not just as statewide data. Because local jurisdictions will play an important role in the restoration of local waterways, it is important to know how localities are doing in achieving their pollution reduction goals as well.

Restoring local rivers and streams, and saving the Chesapeake Bay, will provide benefits today and for future generations. If progress is not made, we will continue to have polluted water, human health hazards, and lost jobs at a huge cost to society. Reducing pollution and restoring local water quality also will create jobs and enhance local economies.

Chuck Epes

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Photos (top to bottom): NASA; iStock; CBF staff, CBF staff.

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