Chesapeake Bay Restoration Measures Adopted

On Nov. 29, leaders in the Chesapeake Bay region adopted several measures to accelerate the protection and restoration of the nation's largest estuary. The initiatives are designed to produce immediate and long-term improvements in the bay's health by reducing pollution flowing into the bay from agricultural areas, improving the management of the bay's fisheries and instilling a bay stewardship ethic among future generations of watershed residents, officials said.

"This year has been a turning point for the Chesapeake Bay," said Chesapeake Executive Council Chair and Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell. "Using scientific studies done since 2000, this year we took aggressive action on behalf of the bay: mandatory discharge reductions imposed on sewage treatment plants, tough new water quality requirements for farming operations and hundreds of millions of new state dollars dedicated to bay restoration. The key now is to stay on track, see these ambitious new requirements through and hopefully succeed in securing new and additional support from our partners in Washington."

Seeking to build upon this year's earlier efforts to lock-in pollution reductions from sewage treatment plants, executive council members adopted a new animal manure management strategy that will reduce the amount of nutrient pollution reaching local waters from livestock operations. Poultry litter and animal manure are responsible for about half of the nutrient pollution from agricultural lands. The strategy calls for reducing surplus animal manure and poultry litter by working with farmers to put in place innovative feed management plans, animal waste storage systems, stream fencing and by expanding manure and litter transport systems to areas in need.

During the meeting, leaders from the bay states also presented U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns with a report outlining the region's top five priorities for the 2007 Farm Bill. The recommendations are designed to serve as a starting point for further discussions of new ways to improve water quality while strengthening the region's agricultural economy. The report, "The 2007 Farm Bill: Concepts for Conservation Reform in the Chesapeake Bay Region," was developed by the Chesapeake Bay Commission and offered to the U.S. Congress by the governors of Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the Mayor of the District of Columbia; and the Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Executive council members also adopted a first-of-its-kind framework for expanding traditional single-species fisheries management into an ecosystem-based approach for the Chesapeake Bay.

Developed by scientists and fisheries managers from the bay states and the federal government, the Fisheries Ecosystem Plan broadens current management efforts to take into account the linkages among fisheries, habitat and water quality management. The Executive Council agreed to give first priority to the development of ecosystem-based fishery management plans for oysters, striped bass, blue crabs, Atlantic menhaden, and Alosa species such as American shad.

The Nov. 29 annual meeting was held in collaboration with a National Geographic Summit on Chesapeake Bay Education, where regional experts discussed the future of environmental education in the bay watershed. Sessions focused on opportunities provided by the upcoming 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement, new directions and technologies in the education arena, and current education practices throughout the watershed. During the final session, executive council members, regional school system leaders and environmental education providers signed an agreement to continue to expand Chesapeake Bay stewardship efforts.

The Executive council -- comprised of Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams, and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Mike Waugh -- meets annually to lead restoration efforts throughout the 64,000-square mile bay watershed.

Executive council members also elected Ehrlich as its new chairman. "My friend and colleague from Pennsylvania has been an effective leader of the Chesapeake Executive Council. On behalf of all the members, I thank him for his tenure," Ehrlich said. "As I look toward my own term as chair, I see not only great possibilities for improving our bay, but exciting opportunities to work across state and party lines to get them done."

For copies of executive council directives and additional information, go to http://www.chesapeakebay.net/200511exec.htm.

This article originally appeared in the 12/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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