Report Identifies Natural Benefits of Restored Bay, Pegs Value at $130 Billion Annually to Region, $49.5 Billion to Va.

Press Release
October 6, 2014

Report Identifies Natural Benefits of Restored Bay, Pegs Value at $130 Billion Annually to Region, $49.5 Billion to Va.

(RICHMOND, VA)���A first-ever analysis released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) finds that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the regional plan to restore the Bay, is fully implemented. The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake also reveals that in Virginia those annual benefits will approach $50 billion.

"We all know that reducing pollution makes great sense for our health and our environment, and today we can confirm what we have long thought. It makes good economic sense as well," said CBF President William C. Baker. "The benefits nature provides to us will increase in value by more than $22 billion, a 21 percent increase as a result of fully implementing the Blueprint. And we reap those added benefits every year."

Nature provides many benefits to the region: cleaner water, cleaner air, hurricane and flood protection, recreation, and fresh, healthy food and seafood. These benefits extend to everyone in the Bay's 64,000-sqare-mile drainage basin, from headwater streams to the Atlantic Ocean.

The peer-reviewed report, produced by economist Spencer Phillips and CBF Senior Scientist Beth McGee, compared the value of those benefits in 2009, the year before the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint began being implemented, to the benefits that can be expected as a result of fully implementing the Bay restoration plan.

The report estimates that the value of natural benefits from the pre-Blueprint Bay watershed, even in its polluted and degraded condition, at $107 billion. Once the Blueprint is fully implemented and the benefits realized, that amount grows by 21 percent to $129.7 billion a year. Equally telling, if the region relaxes efforts and does little more to clean up the Bay than what has been done to date, pollution will worsen and the value of Bay benefits will decline by almost $6 billion.

"The conclusion is clear: The region's environmental and economic health will improve when we fully implement the Blueprint," said co-author Phillips, principal at Key-Log Economics in Charlottesville, Va. "The cleanup plan was designed with the understanding that all people and communities in the watershed can contribute to making the Bay cleaner, and that everyone will benefit when pollution is reduced. Our analysis confirms this."

In Virginia, the report finds that the Blueprint will increase natural benefits of the Bay and its river and streams to the Commonwealth from $41.2 billion a year in 2009 to nearly $50 billion, an increase of 20 percent.

"This report quantifies just how much Virginians have to gain if the Bay is restored," said Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia Executive Director. "And it underscores the significance of Gov. Terry McAuliffe's 'all in' approach to the Blueprint and the new Chesapeake Bay Agreement. A clean Bay makes sense for the environment, for public health, and for Virginia's economy."

To ensure that the Commonwealth is on pace to achieve its commitments in the Bay restoration plan, CBF is calling on the governor and the Virginia General Assembly to provide adequate support in fiscal year 2016 for local governments and farmers installing practices that reduce polluted runoff.

"While we recognize the current economic uncertainties, investing in a restored Bay, as our report clearly shows, is an investment in a more prosperous Virginia," said Jennings.

"Governor McAuliffe and I understand that a strong economy is built on the foundation of a healthy environment," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward. "While achieving our water quality goals will take hard and sustained work and significant investment, the Commonwealth will be better off in the long run with a productive bay and the related quality of life benefits that will support the governor's commitment to a robust new Virginia economy."

U.S. Senator Mark Warner said, "Not only is the Chesapeake Bay a national treasure, but it is also a major economic driver for the Commonwealth. This report shows that the environmental, economic, and agricultural benefits of reducing pollution will benefit everyone, including the over 17 million people who call the Chesapeake Bay home. I want to thank the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for their work to protect our tremendously important national resources."

The CBF report also identified impressive benefit gains in other Bay states with full implementation of the Blueprint. Pennsylvania would see an increase of $6.1 billion annually, Maryland $4.5 billion, New York $1.9 billion, West Virginia $1.3 billion, and Delaware $205 million.

CBF's study addressed only benefits, not costs. While there are no recent estimates of the total costs of Bay cleanup implementation, a 2004 estimate put costs in the range of roughly $6 billion per year. Considering federal, state, and local investments in clean water in the 10 years since that time, we estimate the current number is closer to $5 billion annually. And once capital investments are made, the long-term annual operations and maintenance costs will be much lower. The result ��� the Blueprint will return benefits to the region each year at a rate of more than four times the cost of the cleanup plan.

A copy of The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake can be downloaded at



"Key-Log's analysis is logical, comprehensive, defensible, transparent, and cautious. The report applies the findings of more than 70 previous studies to calculate the most conservative estimates of economic benefits.

"Like a heart muscle whose health depends on what we eat, drink, and breathe, the Chesapeake watershed sustains life throughout our mid-Atlantic region. On behalf of our grandchildren, the Bay Blueprint offers a return on investment far in excess of its costs."
Dr. Mike Ellerbrock, Agricultural and Applied Economics Professor, Virginia Tech


"I have little doubt that the economic benefits of successfully implementing the Blueprint would be quite large. Key-Log is a small specialty shop that has a good reputation, and they appear to have touched all of the appropriate bases.

"My own research into the largest metro areas in the United States, including Hampton Roads, shows that the amount and quality of our beaches and water courses are factors of importance in individuals' rankings of where they live. In deciding where to live, people do pay attention to quality of life. They vote with their feet to express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the quality of life around them."
Dr. James V. Koch, Board of Visitors Professor of Economics and President Emeritus, Department of Economics, Old Dominion University


"The impact of a clean bay on public health cannot be overstated. Most people recognize the health benefits of clean water for drinking, food production, and recreational activities. However, a clean bay also serves as a first line of defense against illness and disease related to water and air pollution, waste treatment, climate stability, and water flow regulation."
Dr. Brian C. Martin, Associate Professor and Director, Graduate Program in Public Health, Eastern Virginia Medical School/Old Dominion University


"The only real impediment to my family making a major financial step-up in aquaculture investment in the Lynnhaven River is stormwater runoff. The foundation of the growing oyster revolution and resurgence in demand lies in the new oyster consumer's confidence in clean water and clean shellfish. Without clean water there is no economic windfall or sustainability for the shellfish industry."
Chris Ludford, owner/operator of Ludford Brothers Oyster Company, home of Pleasure House Oysters


"Implementation of advanced cover crop systems in no-till agriculture has the potential to improve farm profitability, increase food production (yields), and at the same time reduce nutrient inputs. Cover cropping systems that build soil health and biological diversity suppress weeds, alleviate soil compaction, protect crops from drought stress, and release captured nutrients in spring for use by cash crops. This improvement in a farm operation can be a win-win for both farmers and the Bay."
Dr. Ray Weil, Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland

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