|A fishing boat on the Chesapeake Bay. Photo from WikiCommons.
The Chesapeake Bay is the country’s biggest estuary — and one of its biggest failures. Despite over 20 years of clean-up efforts, we have barely made a dent in the extreme levels of pollution from which the Bay suffers. In today’s Baltimore Sun, an op-ed by former Governor Parris Glendening, a smart growth pioneer, praises a new bill that provides hope at last that we might be able to save the dying Chesapeake Bay:
The Chesapeake Bay may be a beloved resource, but we have cruelly mistreated the object of our affections. After many years of knowing how urgently we must protect it, the bay is still far from the clean, vital, vibrant watershed it should be. Its poor health reflects a failure by all of us over decades. By relying on a “voluntary” approach in our cleanup efforts, we are nowhere near the goals that were set to restore this national treasure, and nowhere near a healthy bay.
It is time for people to demand that their elected representatives act to do something about a dying bay and a region fraught with polluted and degraded streams and rivers. U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin and Rep. Elijah Cummings recently introduced comprehensive legislation that provides the best chance in a generation to save the Chesapeake Bay. Every resident of this region — in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New York, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia — who cares about clean water should contact their elected federal officials in both the House and the Senate and urge them to cosponsor and support these bills (S. 1816 & H.R. 3852).
Senator Cardin and Congressman Cummings’ legislation includes a substantial funding increase to the states, local governments, farmers and others, which is critical for implementing the requirements of this bill. Many farmers have been excellent stewards of their land and have implemented various conservation practices on their farms. State and local governments and taxpayers have made considerable investments in upgrading sewage treatment plants, and many homeowners have discovered the low-maintenance pleasures of low-impact development practices on their property. Yet, despite years of these theoretically excellent approaches, the bay is still barely hanging on.