This afternoon, the Chesapeake Executive Council—which represents the seven watershed jurisdictions, a tri-state policy group and federal agencies—signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, committing Chesapeake Bay Program partners to a set of interrelated goals to advance the restoration, conservation and protection of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.
Agreement signatories include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on behalf of the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay. This marks the first time that the Bay’s headwater states of Delaware, New York and West Virginia have pledged to work toward restoration goals that reach beyond water quality, making them full partners in the Bay Program and its watershed-wide work. The signing of this collaborative accord took place on the Annapolis, Maryland, waterfront, at the Executive Council’s annual meeting.
“Today we celebrate the most inclusive, collaborative, goal-oriented Agreement the Chesapeake Bay watershed has ever seen, highlighted by unprecedented participation from the headwater states and the public,” said Chesapeake Executive Council Chair and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. “This Agreement not only addresses our continuing water quality and land use challenges, it also confronts critical emerging issues—environmental literacy, toxic contaminants and climate change. Finally, it builds upon the strength of our diverse citizenry, calling to action the nearly 18 million people that call our watershed home. Together, we can and will achieve our united vision of a healthy Bay and a productive watershed, cared for by engaged citizens at every level.”
The Agreement contains ten goals and twenty-nine measurable, time-bound outcomes that will help create a healthy watershed: they will lower nutrient and sediment pollution; ensure our waters are free of toxic contaminants; sustain blue crabs, oysters and forage fish; restore wetlands, underwater grass beds and other habitats; conserve farmland and forests; boost public access to and education about the Bay and its tributaries; and increase the climate resiliency of the watershed’s resources, habitats and communities.
Years in the making, this landmark set of goals and outcomes has been mutually agreed upon by Bay Program partners. By accomplishing these goals, partners will restore clean water, abundant wildlife and a vibrant cultural heritage to the Bay, where citizens and stakeholders will have access to waterways and open space and be engaged in conservation and stewardship.
“I am pleased to see that this Agreement aligns closely with strategies developed by federal agencies in response to President Obama’s Executive Order on Bay protection and restoration,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who also chairs the Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay. “When there is consensus and commitment toward a common goal, our effectiveness is that much stronger. Together, we demonstrate our commitment toward a common goal—a restored, healthy and economically vibrant watershed.”
The Agreement was developed with input from citizens and stakeholders, who submitted thousands of comments during two public review periods. Public input had a direct impact on the content of the Agreement—influencing partners to add goals related to environmental stewardship, toxic contaminants and climate change—and will continue to contribute to how the Agreement is achieved. Moving forward, Bay Program partners will collaborate with academic institutions, local governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses and citizens in developing and implementing the management strategies that will define how we will accomplish the Agreement’s goals and outcomes.
“The signatories cannot implement this Agreement alone. We’ll need the help of local governments, businesses and citizen groups,” said Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair and state Rep. Ronald Miller. “The management strategies are a new tool introduced in this Agreement to recognize and coordinate the good work of these important partners.”
The public will also be able to hold partners accountable for their actions, thanks to a level of transparency not seen in previous Bay Program agreements. Watershed restoration efforts have shown that firm accountability can lead to results, and Bay Program partners stand ready to embrace new ideas and improve the verification of their actions to strengthen public confidence in their work.
“In my long career in public service, I have not witnessed a more genuine effort to solicit public input than that made by Chesapeake Bay Program partners in writing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement,” said Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale. “This Agreement is a clearer, stronger and more comprehensive document because of this transparency, and its implementation will continue to be influenced by the interests and expertise of every individual, organization, community, local government, business and partner that wants to be involved in this endeavor.”
In addition to signing the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, Executive Council members heard from the Bay Program’s three Advisory Committees today. These committees represent citizens, local governments and scientific and technical interests from across the watershed and the nation, and have provided invaluable advice to the Executive Council over the years. Under the new accord, they will continue to advocate for the use of sound science, targeted and informed restoration, and public engagement at the local, regional and national levels.
Executive Council members also heard from four high school students representing Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia. While each of these students was introduced to conservation in a different way, they have all had valuable experiences on the Bay and spoke about the importance of engaging future generations in environmental restoration, advocacy and leadership.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership that has coordinated and conducted the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since its creation in 1983. Members of the Chesapeake Executive Council include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of the federal government. This group is responsible for setting the Chesapeake Bay Program’s policy agenda.