It has often been said in some form since George Santayana first uttered the words in the early 20th century, that those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it. Indeed, history is often cyclical, with one generation repeating the previous generation's blunders and mishaps. This was the case for decades in Bay cleanup efforts when main Bay states agreed to voluntary pollution reductions, but with no checkpoints or accountability, the well-regarded intentions were destined for failure.
The tide turned in December 2010 when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint took shape. Under the Blueprint, the EPA oversees enforceable pollution limits on nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. Each Bay state has their plans to meet those limits, with two-year incremental checkpoints, and crucially, consequences imposed for failure to meet pollution-reduction goals. Finally, efforts to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams have teeth.
As with most efforts to change the status quo, the Blueprint has faced significant resistance. Within weeks of its release, the plan was attacked by special interests with enormous political influence, and by attorneys general from 21 states. After years of legal challenges and two resounding courtroom victories, the Blueprint has been affirmed as a tremendous example of cooperative federalism. And already, we have seen positive signs that the Blueprint is working. Underwater dead zones are smaller, oysters are rebounding, and Bay grasses are covering more bottom than they have in 35 years!
But no one said change is easy. Congress is the next challenge for the Blueprint, as an amendment was proposed this week on an appropriations bill that would cripple the EPA's ability to impose consequences on states failing to meet pollution-reduction goals. Essentially, the Blueprint would lose its teeth, condemning us to repeat the same cycle of voluntary agreements which time and again proved fruitless. Now is the time to double-down on the Blueprint, not abandon progress. We will continue fighting to defend the Blueprint with hopes and ambitions of leaving a legacy of clean water for our children and future generations.
This Week in the Watershed: Appropriations, Shrinking Dead Zones, and an Ancient Fish
- An appropriations bill passed by the House of Representatives threatens the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. (Baltimore Sun--MD)
- CBF's Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, VA is raising the bar for sustainable architecture. (Virginia Business Magazine--VA)
- Dead zones are shrinking, as recently release data reveals the second best dissolved oxygen levels in Maryland's portion of the Bay since 1985. (Star Democrat--MD)
- Municipalities in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County are receiving grants for projects to reduce urban stormwater runoff. (Lancaster Intelligencer-Journal--PA)
- The Atlantic sturgeon, the oldest and largest fish in the Chesapeake Bay, is threatened by extinction. (Somerset County Times--MD)
- Susquehanna County in northeast Pennsylvania became the latest county to adopt a Clean Water Counts resolution, becoming the 27th county in Pennsylvania to ask state officials to make clean water a priority. (CBF Press Release)
- The resurgence of underwater grasses is worth celebrating! (Baltimore Sun--MD)
What's Happening around the Watershed?
- Baltimore, MD: Join CBF and partners at a town hall meeting on the newly modified Consent Decree (CD) to address Baltimore's failing sewage system. The public is invited to attend this free meeting and ask questions, and to learn about what is being proposed and how the City plans to meet obligations detailed in the Consent Decree.
July 22, 29, and August 5
- Shady Side, MD: Break a sweat and help Save the Bay--join CBF in cleaning the "homes" of the next generation of Chesapeake Bay oysters! Help restore the Chesapeake's native oyster population by cleaning oyster shells. We'll be shaking off the dirt and debris on shells so baby oysters can successfully grow on them. This "shell shaking" event is a bit of a workout but a fun, hands-on experience. With lifting involved, it is not recommended for individuals with bad backs or other health concerns. A tour of our restoration center will follow the shell shaking.
- Virginia Beach, VA: Join CBF for an early morning outdoors! We are looking for volunteers to help with a variety of property maintenance at the Brock Center and Pleasure House Point. We can use your help anytime from 7:00 a.m.-10:00 a.m. Activities will include cutting back phragmites around the site, removing Japanese sedge, and checking in on Libby's Garden and the rain gardens. If you are interested, please send us an email at email@example.com or call 757-622-1964. Please share with us your name, home or cell number, and your email address so we can stay in touch in case of any changes. Also please let us know if you can come out for an hour or all three hours.
- Annapolis, MD: Wondering how your favorite Bay critters are doing? Join CBF Fisheries Director Bill Goldsborough to learn the latest about what's happening underwater beneath your boat, kayak, or paddleboard! Our summer "Save the Bay" Breakfast features an ecology crash-course and updates on the health of three of the Chesapeake Bay's most iconic fishery species: oysters, striped bass, and blue crabs--plus a menhaden bonus! Come enjoy a delicious Boatyard breakfast and learn things you never knew about some of the Bay's most important--and tasty--inhabitants.
- Norfolk, VA: Come on out for the 19th Annual Paddle for the Bay! Paddlers with kayaks to paddle boarders and all others in between, join in this Mid-Atlantic Paddlers Association certified competition to raise funds for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
- East Pennsboro, PA: Get out on the water with CBF! This canoe trip will start just north of the city of Harrisburg near Ft. Hunter Park. The educators from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's Susquehanna Watershed Education Program will lead the way, winding through large islands. The trip will take the group under the historic Rockville Bridge and pass by one of the largest rookeries on the river, Wade Island.
--Drew Robinson, CBF's Digital Media Associate