New Chesapeake Strategy Holds Government Accountable

The new federal strategy for the Chesapeake region uses rigorous regulations to restore clean water, implements new conservation practices on 4 million acres of farms, conserves 2 million acres of undeveloped land and rebuilds oysters in 20 tributaries of the bay, according to a May 12 press release.

“This strategy outlines the broadest partnerships, the strongest protections and the most accountability we've seen in decades. It's a new era for our work on the Chesapeake Bay,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who chairs the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake. “Through President Obama's leadership and the commitment of many active stakeholders, we have an historic opportunity to restore the environmental health of these waters and the vibrant economy of this community.”

To restore clean water, EPA will implement the Chesapeake total maximum daily, expand regulation of urban and suburban stormwater and concentrated animal feeding operations and increase enforcement activities and funding for state regulatory programs.

The agency also released a guidance to help federal facilities reduce their pollution to the bay. The guidance provides federal land managers with the help they need to implement the best proven tools and practices to restore and protect the region’s waterways and the bay. The cost-effective tools and practices outlined in the document are indicated by current scientific and technical literature to be the most state-of-the-art approaches to reduce water pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Others in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including states, local governments, conservation districts, and watershed organizations, can also benefit from the information presented in this guidance.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide farmers and forest owners with the resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nitrogen and phosphorous out of local waterways. The agricultural agency will target federal funding to the places where it will have the greatest water quality impact and ensure that producers’ conservation efforts are accurately reported. USDA will also lead a federal initiative to develop a watershed-wide environmental services market that would allow producers to generate tradable water quality credits in return for installing effective conservation practices.

“A thriving, sustainable agricultural sector is critical to restoration of the Chesapeake Bay,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “We will help the bay watershed’s farmers and forest owners put new conservation practices on 4 million acres of agricultural lands so that agriculture can build on the improvements in nutrient and sediment reductions that we have seen over the last 25 years.”

The Department of the Interior will launch a collaborative Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative and expand land conservation by coordinating federal funding and providing community assistance. Interior will also develop a plan for increasing public access to the bay and its rivers.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said: “My department, which has 13 refuges and 51 units of the National Park System throughout the watershed, will play a key role in the plan, working hand-in-hand with other federal agencies, states, local communities and other stakeholders to restore this national treasure cherished by so many.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will launch a bay-wide oyster restoration strategy in close collaboration with Maryland and Virginia that focuses on priority tributaries, expands commercial aquaculture and bolsters research on oyster stock, habitat and restoration progress. Oysters are among the bay’s most struggling species.

The strategy includes several overarching approaches:

  • Short-term action. Many actions will occur in the next few years, and many of the actions are “on-the-ground” and “in-the-water” all around the Chesapeake watershed.
  • Supporting local efforts. The strategy is designed to directly support the restoration activities of local governments, watershed groups, county conservation districts, landowners and citizens.
  • Benefiting economies and jobs. Many actions will provide economic benefits, including conservation of working farms, expanded oyster aquaculture, support for conservation corps programs and green jobs, and development of an environmental marketplace for selling, buying and trading credits for pollution reductions.
  • Targeting of resources. Agencies will be aggressively targeting resources in areas with the most pollution and potential for runoff, with the highest potential for restoring fish and wildlife, and with habitats and lands most in need of protection.

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