by Alicia Pimental
May 13, 2010
The federal government will restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and its thousands of local waterways, implement conservation practices on four million acres of farmland, conserve two million acres of undeveloped land, and rebuild oysters in 20 Bay tributaries as part of a new strategy for protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The federal strategy was developed under President Obama’s Chesapeake Bay Executive Order issued in May 2009, which declared the Bay a national treasure and called on the federal government to deepen its commitment to restoring and protecting the Bay.
Through the new strategy, federal agencies will dedicate unprecedented resources, aggressively target actions where they can have the greatest impact, ensure that federal lands and facilities lead by example in environmental stewardship, and take a comprehensive, ecosystem-wide approach to restoration.
The strategy directly supports restoration activities by local governments, watershed groups, conservation districts, land owners and citizens.
Many actions in the strategy will also have economic benefits for the Chesapeake region, such as conserving working farms, expanding oyster aquaculture, supporting conservation corps programs and green jobs, and developing an environmental marketplace to buy, sell and trade pollution reduction credits.
“This strategy outlines the broadest partnerships, the strongest protections and the most accountability we've seen in decades,” said U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, who chairs the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay. The Federal Leadership Committee, established by the Executive Order, includes senior representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation.
To increase accountability and accelerate restoration, federal agencies will meet milestones every two years for actions that make progress toward measurable environmental goals. These will support and complement two-year milestones set by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia.
Many actions to protect and restore the Bay will occur in the next few years, another step to accelerate cleanup efforts.
The strategy also outlines federal coordination with state activities, identifies goals for restoring the Bay, creates a process for reporting on progress, and explains how efforts will be adapted based on science and resources.
Read the full federal strategy at the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order website.
Restoring Clean Water
To restore clean water, the EPA will:
- Implement the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), a “pollution diet” for the Bay and local waterways
- Expand regulation of concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) and stormwater runoff from cities, towns and suburbs
- Increase enforcement activities and funding for state regulatory programs
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will:
- Provide farmers and forest owners throughout the Bay watershed with the resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nutrients out of local waterways
- Target federal funding to the places where it will have the greatest impact on reducing water pollution
- Ensure that agricultural producers’ conservation efforts are accurately reported
- 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 implementing conservation practices
“We will help the Bay watershed’s farmers and forest owners put new conservation practices on four 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,” said USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Conserving Natural Areas
To protect priority lands, the Department of the Interior will:
- Launch a collaborative Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative
- Expand land conservation by coordinating federal funding and providing community assistance
- Develop a plan for increasing public access to the Bay and its rivers
“Our strategy provides the blueprint for finally restoring the Chesapeake Bay to health – its bountiful wildlife, abundant fish and shellfish, beautiful waterways and rich wetlands,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, working closely with Maryland and Virginia, will launch a Bay-wide oyster restoration strategy that:
- Focuses on 20 priority tributaries
- Expands commercial aquaculture
- Bolsters research on oyster stock, habitat and restoration progress
"It is critical that we apply our best science toward native oyster restoration and habitat protection, as well as toward development of sustainable aquaculture,” said Dr. Jane Lubchenco, Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator. “Ecosystem-based approaches to management will enable progress toward a healthy, sustainable Chesapeake ecosystem that will include oysters for generations to come.”
Video From the Release of the Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson
U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack
U.S. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus
U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary for Water and Science Anne Castle and U.S. Department of Commerce Principal Deputy Undersecretary for Oceans and Atmosphere Monica Medina