For decades, the six Chesapeake Bay watershed states, District of Columbia, and federal agencies have been working together to restore the Chesapeake Bay. In 2010, the EPA alongside the six Bay states and District of Columbia agreed to science-based, enforceable limits on the amount of pollution entering the Chesapeake. Known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, Bay jurisdictions have committed to have in place, by 2025, the practices and policies necessary to meet the Bay's pollution limits. In 2014, jurisdictions also signed a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement that redoubled their commitment to achieve healthy water quality, fisheries, and habitat in the Bay and its tributaries by 2025.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates the cleanup at the federal level with the support of federal agencies, including those have jurisdiction over water infrastructure projects, marine resources, and agriculture. Together, federal agencies:
- Help farmers implement conservation practices on their land,
- Restore oyster populations in the Bay,
- Conduct the science and monitoring necessary to help us track the progress we are making toward restoring the Bay and determine what we need to do to finish the job, and
- Educate the next generation through world-renowned environmental literacy programs.
To better understand the role of the federal government in Bay restoration, let’s take a deep dive into the different agencies that play a critical role in its restoration
Environmental Protection Agency: Chesapeake Bay Program
Established in 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program is the glue that holds the federal-state partnership together. It provides the states with the scientific research, modeling, monitoring, and data they need to efficiently plan, track, and adapt their restoration activities.
More than 60 percent of funding is sent directly to state and local governments and other partners in the watershed states and the District to help them meet the targets of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This includes grant programs that support state implementation of restoration programs, and two matching grant programs that drive local investment in state restoration priorities.
Just a few examples of the diversity of local projects funded through these grant programs include: the Mountains to Bay Grazing Alliance which promotes the implementation of rotational grazing and related best management practices; an urban stormwater management project in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to capture, store and slowly release stormwater after it is filtered and absorbed by soil and plants; and tree restoration efforts in Hopewell, Virginia to help increase tree cover in the city.
Find out more on our Chesapeake Bay Program web page.
With just a few years remaining to achieve the commitments of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, increased investments in the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program are essential.
U.S. Department of Agriculture Programs
Agriculture is the second largest land use (second only to forests) in the Bay watershed. There are roughly 83,000 farms in the Chesapeake Bay watershed comprising nearly 30 percent of the 64,000 square-mile region. All jurisdictions, except for Washington, D.C., rely heavily on pollution reductions from agriculture to achieve their water quality goals.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) works with farmers to plan and install voluntary conservation practices that protect water quality by reducing the flow of nutrients and sediments from agricultural lands into rivers and streams that feed into the Bay. Its conservation programs are authorized through the Federal Farm Bill and support every state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Key conservation programs include:
- Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP)
- Environmental Quality and Incentives Program (EQIP)
- Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP)
- Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP)
More information on these programs can be found on our Federal Farm Bill web page.
Funding for USDA Farm Bill programs are critical to providing support--financial and technical--for farmers and communities across the watershed, especially in Pennsylvania.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Programs
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has been actively working in the Chesapeake Bay watershed on oyster restoration since the mid-1990’s. The role of USACE in oyster restoration is critical—it provides planning, engineering, and construction support for large-scale oyster restoration projects.
USACE is one of the leading federal agencies focused on the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement’s goal of restoring oyster populations in 10 tributaries in Maryland and Virginia by 2025. Thanks to the efforts of USACE and other federal, state, and local partners, oyster restoration projects are continuing to move forward. Already, restoration of two tributaries—Harris Creek, a tributary of the Choptank River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, and the Lafayette River in Norfolk, Virginia—has been completed. This work is critical to bringing back oyster populations that have dropped to a fraction of historic population counts. Continued investment in USACE projects is essential to meet the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, and to achieve large-scale restoration objectives.
The Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Plan, developed by USACE, is another critical tool for watershed restoration. The Comprehensive Plan is a roadmap for habitat restoration for the entire Bay watershed and has the potential to dramatically increase the pace and impact of restoration from the headwaters to the mouth of the Bay. USACE prioritizes geographic areas in the watershed where habitat restoration can help reach Bay Agreement targets – from oyster restoration to forested buffers and more.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA)
NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office is a partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program-led cleanup effort. Scientific data from this office is critical for managing and restoring oysters, blue crabs, striped bass, and other ecologically and commercially important species. NOAA helps the broader Chesapeake Bay partnership meet restoration goals through its work on:
- Environmental Literacy: NOAA is the lead federal agency for K-12 education about the Chesapeake Bay, through the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Education and Training program. This program supports hands-on watershed education for students and teachers, developing environmentally literacy through meaningful watershed educational experiences.
- Oyster Restoration: NOAA is a lead partner on oyster restoration in the Chesapeake Bay. It provides the data and monitoring necessary to maintain and improve healthy oyster populations.
NOAA is one of the federal government’s foremost science and education agencies, focused on coastal and marine resources. By investing in NOAA, Congress is investing in educating the next generation and enhancing our knowledge, understanding and protection of our national treasure – the Chesapeake Bay.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
The Chesapeake Bay watershed provides food, water, protection, and nesting/nursery areas to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) works here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to carry out their mission to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.
The USFWS is a partner in Chesapeake Bay restoration, and has authority over The Chesapeake Watershed Investments and Defense (Chesapeake WILD) program. Chesapeake WILD is a non-regulatory grant program established to provide federal funds for local fish and wildlife restoration efforts. This program allows the federal government to invest $15 million annually to support local partners with on-the-ground restoration projects, aimed at restoring and protecting fish and wildlife habitat and improve the health of our streams, rivers and the Bay. The goals of this program are guided by the Chesapeake Watershed Agreement. Priority focus areas include restoration of riparian forest buffers and tidal and non-tidal wetlands, improving stream health and fish habitat, and removing barriers to fish migration in freshwater systems.
Stay up to date on what’s happening in the federal appropriations process by visiting our Federal Update page.
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