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Big Picture on Bay Restoration

Slow speed ahead

The honchos of the Chesapeake region met last week to decide if the Bay is still worth saving.
    The good news is that the heads of state and policy in the Chesapeake watershed reaffirmed the commitment made by their predecessors in 1983 to restore the Bay.
    Meeting at the National Arboretum last week as the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council were Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Maryland Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, sitting in for Gov. Larry Hogan, then in chemotherapy; District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser; U.S. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy; Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair L. Scott Lingamfelter; and representatives from Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. West Virginia, also in the watershed, sent no representative.
    We’re on it, they agreed, and set 25 management strategies for reaching the goals and outcomes of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement plus two resolutions and letters of support. The resolutions support increasing forests along riverbanks and streams and holding an environmental financing symposium in 2016, the latter championed by Rutherford. The letters of support say yes we should both improve practices to keep livestock out of streams and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as included in the 2016 Presidential Budget.
    What all that actually means takes thousands of actions documented in hundreds of pages.
    The bad news reaffirms a tradition as well: Once more, a restoration deadline will be missed. The latest day-late-dollar-short deadline, 2017, was set in 2014 to mark the goal of 60 percent reduction in pollution-causing nitrogen, phosphorus and nitrogen entering the Bay from all seven jurisdictions in the watershed. The final deadline is 2025, the date for reaching the Total Maximum Daily Load levels.
    Progress toward the nearer goal ranges from very good in Maryland and good in Virginia to a long way to go in Pennsylvania.
    This year’s June 10 review of progress by the EPA showed Maryland the only state making steady progress on all four of the EPA’s categories: agriculture, urban/suburban, wastewater and trading/offsets.
    Whether a new administration in Maryland will affect our progress is future news.
    At the Executive Council meeting, Rutherford credited Gov. Hogan with “leading the most significant Bay restoration effort in decades.
    “After years of previous administrations failing to successfully negotiate with the environmental and farming communities, Gov. Hogan successfully established enhanced Phosphorus Management Tool regulations,” Rutherford said.
    The lieutenant governor also credited his boss with the Rain Tax Mandate Repeal, which he called “a major step in providing flexibility to local jurisdictions by repealing the requirement that forced local jurisdictions to collect a stormwater remediation fee, while upholding accountability and appropriate oversight.”
    Whether that repeal is an environmental achievement depends on who’s talking.