By Kathy Knotts
The Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC), the three-state legislative body that works to advance policy at all levels of government to restore and protect the Bay watershed, named Anne Arundel’s own state Senator Sarah Elfreth as chair last week.
“It’s an absolute honor to take the reins (and gavel) of this phenomenal organization dedicated to bringing bipartisan, multi-state policy solutions to tackle the complex challenges facing our greatest natural treasure, the Chesapeake Bay,” Elfreth said in a statement. “This is a pivotal moment in time—we are just four short years and a tremendous amount of work away from reaching our Watershed Implementation Plan goals.”
Elfreth (D-30) represents Annapolis and southern Anne Arundel County in the state senate. Elfreth was elected in 2018 and is the youngest woman ever elected to the Maryland Senate and now one of only four women to lead the CBC, and quite possibly the youngest chairperson yet. She will serve a one-year term as CBC chair and takes over for outgoing chairperson David Bulova of Virginia. The CBC is the only legislative member of the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership and consists of bipartisan legislators from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.
“We are so lucky. She is an incredibly strong leader, a quick thinker and able to bring all sides of an issue into a constructive discussion,” responded CBC’s executive director Ann Swanson. “The Commission is bipartisan with members stretching across the watershed, representing urban, suburban, and rural districts. As we seek solutions, whether policy or funding, we must find approaches that are supported by all sides. This provides for the long-term stability that the Bay restoration needs. Sarah has that skill set.”
“The commission has a 40-year history of achieving real legislative and budget wins in all three states on behalf of the Bay, even in the face of pressures such as population increase and a changing climate,” stated Elfreth. “Now is the time to target not just the WIP goals that are in greatest need of our help but the streams, rivers, and tributaries that are most impaired. We can and will use the best science, dedicated partners, and increased federal and state investments to make meaningful progress in protecting and restoring the Bay for generations to come.
I’m deeply humbled by the confidence my colleagues have in me and I’m excited to dig into the important work ahead!”
Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Maryland Executive Director Josh Kurtz issued a statement on behalf of the conservation organization. “We’re encouraged to see a proven leader in Sen. Elfreth being named to this important oversight position at a critical time for the overall Chesapeake Bay cleanup,” he writes. “We have just four years left for states to meet the 2025 deadline to reduce pollution throughout the watershed to bring the Bay’s health back into balance. It’s going to take creativity and determination to reach the 2025 goals—two qualities we’ve seen before in Sen. Elfreth.”
Additionally, the CBC members elected the chair and vice-chair for each state delegation as follows: Maryland, Chair: Sen. Sarah K. Elfreth, Vice-Chair: Del. Sara Love; Pennsylvania, Chair: Rep. Keith Gillespie, Vice-Chair: Sen. Scott Martin; Virginia, Chair: Sen. Lynwood Lewis Jr., Vice-Chair: Del. Rob Bloxom.