By Chris Adams
The Chesapeake Bay is healthier than it was a decade ago – but that doesn’t mean the job of cleaning it up is done.
“Just about every metric we track on the bay is improving – and going in the right direction,” said Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“We’re seeing more crabs, more oysters,” he added. In 2016, for the first time they started tracking it, there was no reported dead zone in the bay in 2016.
“That wouldn’t even have been thought as close to possible 10 years ago,” he said. “Is the job done? Absolutely not.”
In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, Baker and Beth McGee, director of science and agricultural policy at the foundation, detailed the health of the bay and the efforts to reduce the pollution going into it. Those efforts are complicated by the six states and their waterways that contribute to the Bay – the Chesapeake watershed extends from Cooperstown, New York, to Virginia Beach, Virginia – and the agricultural, urban development and other interests that impact it.
The immediate issue is the Chesapeake, but the debate is relevant for other bodies of water in the U.S. – from the Puget Sound in Washington state to the Gulf of Mexico in the South – that are also threatened and can learn from the Chesapeake’s efforts.
As for the Chesapeake, Baker shared data over time on nitrogen run-off into the Chesapeake and on the populations of crabs, oysters and rockfish. All those measures show improvements.
That said, the federal Chesapeake Bay cleanup program could face drastic budget cuts. The EPA awards grants nonprofit agencies, the District of Columbia and six states in the bay to pay for restoration. The first Trump administration budget, would zero it out (the budget still needs to make it through Congress). The Chesapeake Bay Foundation only gets a small share of its funds from the federal government.