The Chesapeake Executive Council adopted at its annual meeting on Nov. 20 a new strategy to speed up the pace of Bay restoration and become more accountable by setting two-year milestones to reduce pollution to the Bay and its rivers.
The Executive Council will establish the new two-year deadlines in spring 2009, when the most current scientific data about pollution levels becomes available through the Bay Program’s annual Health and Restoration Assessment. These milestones will focus the Bay Program partnership on achieving short-term goals, thereby intensifying restoration efforts. The two-year milestones will lead up to an overall deadline for Bay restoration, which will also be set next spring.
The decision to set short-term goals comes after the Executive Council confirmed at its 2007 meeting that the Bay Program partnership would not meet its Chesapeake 2000 commitment to clean up the Bay by 2010.
"Setting goals that are a decade out, for example, do not create pressure to produce results," said Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine, the incoming Executive Council chairman. "We're going to change the way goals are set."
The new two-year deadlines will be created at the 2009 Executive Council meeting, which will be moved to spring to coincide with the release of the Health and Restoration Assessment and allow Executive Council members to more effectively coordinate restoration initiatives with government budget cycles and legislative sessions.
In addition to the decision to set two-year milestones for restoration, the Executive Council also announced at its meeting plans to request support for the Bay from the President-elect, pursue development of next-generation biofuels in the Chesapeake Region and increase partner accountability for restoration of the Bay and its watershed.
The Executive Council, led this year by outgoing chairman Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and incoming chairman Governor Kaine, establishes the Bay Program’s policy agenda. Participating in the meeting, which was held at Union Station in Washington, D.C., were executives from the six Bay states, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The work of this partnership and the actions taken today reflect our unwavering commitment to restoring the health and beauty of the Chesapeake Bay for the millions of area residents and visitors who enjoy the Bay or make a living from it,” said Governor O’Malley.
Summary of 2008 Executive Council actions:
To accelerate progress toward cleaning up the Bay, the Executive Council agreed to set restoration milestones every two years. These milestones will focus the partnership on achieving short-term goals to reduce excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. The specific milestones will be calculated in spring 2009, once the most current scientific data becomes available, and will be announced at the next Executive Council meeting, which will also be held in spring 2009.
The Executive Council will also use the milestones and scientific data to establish a new deadline for implementing the restoration measures needed for a healthy Bay.
Bay Program partners have worked with the EPA to shape the Chesapeake TMDL, a federally mandated pollution budget for the watershed. The Chesapeake TMDL will allocate loadings of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to all jurisdictions in the watershed. The two-year milestones will be used to assist the TMDL process. When complete in December 2010, the Chesapeake TMDL will be the largest in the country.
(Read more about the Chesapeake TMDL.)
The Bay Program is seeking a renewed federal commitment to protecting the Chesapeake Bay, the nation’s largest estuary. On behalf of the six Bay states, the District of Columbia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission, Governor Kaine and Governor O’Malley will deliver a request to the President-elect and 111th Congress to elevate Chesapeake restoration to a top environmental priority and support regional and national legislative measures to accelerate Bay and watershed restoration.
The Executive Council launched a plan to position the Chesapeake region as a national leader in production of next-generation biofuels. This new sector of biofuels does not rely on food crops and can be grown sustainably to yield environmental and economic benefits while also advancing Bay restoration goals.
(Read the Executive Council directive to implement state biofuels action plans and recommendations included in the recent Next-Generation Biofuels report.)
Bay Program partners have made significant progress on the “champion” roles they selected at the 2007 Executive Council meeting. Champion issues include the promotion of low-impact development, support of agricultural conservation practices and improvement of wastewater treatment. Partners will continue to take this type of targeted action on vital issues in 2009.
To increase the accountability of the partners working to clean up the Bay, the Executive Council has requested the Bay Program be evaluated by a national independent science organization. The evaluator role is designed to identify shortcomings and recommend solutions for improving the Bay Program’s effectiveness.
The Executive Council signaled its support for Chesapeake Bay FieldScope, a project led by National Geographic to educate students about human-environment interactions in the watershed and to engage them directly in environmental monitoring. The Executive Council has agreed to explore opportunities to work with National Geographic to introduce the program throughout the watershed.