Friday, January 05, 2007

The Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Isn't Going So Well

No one has ever said that restoring an estuary in a heavily urbanized region would be easy. But maybe it’s harder than we think. The folks responsible for cleaning up Chesapeake Bay are failing miserably, and yesterday they acknowledged it at a meeting the Washington Post covered:

The multibillion-dollar cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay, which government officials had pledged would succeed by 2010, will likely miss that deadline by a wide margin -- and, at the current pace, might drag on for decades more, an Environmental Protection Agency official acknowledged yesterday.

Rich Batiuk, an associate director of the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, made that projection at a meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, an advisory group that includes state officials from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania.

His talk was a blunt, and public, admission of something that the EPA had conceded in an agency report last year. A pledge to "save the bay," made six years ago in the so-called Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, is falling drastically short. "If we go at the current rate that we're doing, we're talking about restoring the Chesapeake decades from now, a generation or two," Batiuk said.

You may remember, from reading this, that in 1987 the Chesapeake Bay Program set a nitrogen reduction goal of 40 percent by 2001; but when 2001 rolled around, the actual nitrogen reduction was just 17 percent. That resulted in a new goal and a new promise, and they’re not meeting those either.

Batiuk's assessment was not news to many environmentalists, who have said for years that roads and suburbs in the watershed were growing too fast and that cleanup efforts at farms and sewage plants were moving too slowly for the deadline to be met.

Some of them said yesterday that they were heartened that the EPA was admitting the shortfall but wished the acknowledgment had come sooner.

"Duh," said Roy Hoagland, a vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, after hearing Batiuk's talk in Annapolis. "We've been arguing for at least four years that in order to reach those goals, they need to accelerate implementation [of cleanup efforts]. . . . That is not new information."



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