Maryland Governor Wes Moore was elected chair by members of the Chesapeake Executive Council today when they gathered at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. for their annual meeting. Governor Moore takes over leadership of the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program partnership from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan, who has led the Council for the past two years.
“I’m honored and deeply humbled to serve as the Chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council,” said Maryland Governor Wes Moore. “The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders—and plays a vital role in our state’s environment and economy. Maryland is ready to take the lead on this important work, and we know we won’t be working alone. I am optimistic that if we take shared responsibility, hold each other accountable and follow the science—we can achieve our vision of a cleaner, healthier Bay for all.”
Today’s meeting presented the unique opportunity to celebrate the Bay Program’s 40thanniversary, while solidifying the foundation in which to reach 2025—the target date by which many of the outcomes under the current Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement strive to be achieved.
Established 40 years ago following the signing of the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the Chesapeake Executive Council is responsible for guiding the policy agenda and conservation and restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional watershed partnership. Members include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the tri-state legislative Chesapeake Bay Commission and the administrator of the EPA on behalf of the federal government.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin gave the keynote speech at the meeting, reflecting on his many years as a tireless advocate for the Chesapeake Bay and supporter of the partnership. Cardin plans to retire at the end of 2024 after serving in the United States Senate for three terms.
“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, an incredibly diverse and productive ecosystem and the economic and cultural heart of the Bay region. It has been a privilege to dedicate so many years of public service to its protection and restoration,” said Senator Cardin. “Federal and regional partnerships have been crucial to the progress we have made in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. With Governor Moore as Executive Council Chair, I’m confident that these partnerships will continue in the future, and Maryland will continue to be a leader in Bay conservation.”
In June 2014, the Executive Council signed the Watershed Agreement, consisting of 10 goals and 31 outcomes, with the vision of fostering an environmentally and economically sustainable watershed with clean water, abundant life, conserved lands and access to the water, a vibrant cultural heritage, and a diversity of engaged residents and stakeholders.
At their 2022 annual meeting, the Council directed the Bay Program’s Principals’ Staff Committee with recommending a critical path forward that prioritizes and outlines the next steps for meeting the goals and outcomes of the Watershed Agreement. A steering committee representing each watershed jurisdiction, as well as advisory committee members and non-profit partners was formed in early 2023 to work with subject matter experts in assessing the attainment of each of the 31 outcomes. Additionally, the steering committee and subject matter experts identified new science and restoration strategies, as well as emerging issues and changing conditions in the watershed (e.g., climate change) that will impact the work of the partnership moving forward.
The result of this work was the Executive Council’s acceptance of three overarching recommendations that will be used to guide the partnership’s work until 2025. The Chesapeake Bay Program will now focus on the second part of the 2022 charge—continuing to address new advances in science and restoration while focusing on the future of Bay restoration.
Recommendations for what the partnership will look like post-2025 will be presented to the Council at their 2024 meeting.
“The Chesapeake Bay Commission has been a proud partner of the Bay Program from the beginning, helping to achieve consensus and lead action,” said Pennsylvania State Senator and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Scott Martin. “As a legislator, I know this work is not easy. The key is to stay focused on a common goal. In a watershed as diverse as the Chesapeake, we can all engage around local water quality. The partnership’s science, data, tools and funding empower local communities to improve their own rivers and streams, which in turn benefits the Bay downstream. I am excited about the next chapter as we work collaboratively to further enhance these resources.”
Prior to the meeting, the Executive Council participated in a tour, led by staff from the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and the Environment, to view restoration activities that have taken place at the National Arboretum. The Arboretum is located within the Anacostia River watershed, which drains into the Chesapeake Bay. The Anacostia River is considered one of the nation’s great restoration success stories. Having suffered from years of industrial pollution and trash, the river has made incredible strides toward one day becoming swimmable and fishable thanks to partnerships, dedicated funding and community support. Executive Council members were able to witness firsthand how stream restoration projects, with support and buy-in from local communities, contributed to this remarkable recovery.
Each member of the Council provided remarks at the meeting and had the opportunity to hear reports from the Bay Program’s three advisory committees, who represent stakeholders, local governments and scientists from across the watershed.
“The Chesapeake Bay is more than just an ecological national treasure; it is an economic engine for the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond,” said outgoing Executive Council Chair Michael Regan, administrator of the EPA. “Under the Biden-Harris administration protecting and restoring the Bay has been a top priority, with historic investments from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and significant new partnerships to implement these unprecedented resources quickly and efficiently. With Governor Moore at the helm, EPA and all the partners of the Program are well-positioned for the next generation of conservation in the Chesapeake Bay.
“The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure, an incredibly diverse and productive ecosystem and the economic and cultural heart of the Bay region. It has been a privilege to dedicate so many years of public service to its protection and restoration. Federal and regional partnerships have been crucial to the progress we have made in improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. With Governor Moore as Executive Council Chair, I’m confident that these partnerships will continue in the future, and Maryland will continue to be a leader in Bay conservation.”
- Ben Cardin, Senator, State of Maryland
“The Chesapeake Bay is more than just an ecological national treasure; it is an economic engine for the Mid-Atlantic region and beyond. The Biden-Harris Administration has been at the forefront of protecting and restoring the Bay through a historic investment from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and our work to forge new partnerships to distribute those resources. EPA and the rest of the partnership have laid the groundwork for the next generation of conservation in the Chesapeake Bay.”
- Michael Regan, Administrator, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
“I’m honored and deeply humbled to serve as the Chair of the Chesapeake Executive Council. The Chesapeake Bay is part of who we are as Marylanders—and plays a vital role in our state’s environment and economy. Maryland is ready to take the lead on this important work, and we know we won’t be working alone. I am optimistic that if we take shared responsibility, hold each other accountable and follow the science—we can achieve our vision of a cleaner, healthier Bay for all.”
- Wes Moore, Governor, State of Maryland
“My Administration takes protecting the Chesapeake Bay incredibly seriously and is committed to coordinating with our partners to invest in our farmers, protect our rivers and clean up the Chesapeake Bay. Since 2019, Commonwealth agencies have invested almost $1 billion in Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, while simultaneously empowering our farmers, building our parks and outdoor recreation economy, and investing in wastewater treatment facilities to prevent stormwater from carrying harmful nutrients downstream. Pennsylvania is all in, and we look forward to continuing to work together to restore the Chesapeake Bay for generations of Pennsylvanians and Americans to come.”
- Josh Shapiro, Governor, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
“Since day one, my Administration has made the Chesapeake Bay a priority. We have made historic and long overdue investments in support of a healthy Bay, funding an additional $600 million in water quality improvements just this year. While there is still much work to do, we are rebuilding the trust and collaboration with our agricultural community necessary to getting Virginia back on a track towards achieving realistic progress on our Chesapeake Bay goals and ensuring this resource is protected for generations of Virginians.”
- Glenn Youngkin, Governor, Commonwealth of Virginia
“West Virginia continues its commitment to restore and protect, not only the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but all of the streams and rivers throughout the state. The work that has been done to restore the Chesapeake Bay has been nothing short of miraculous; however, there is still more work to be done. West Virginia, in partnership with our neighboring states within the Bay Program and local stakeholders, will persist with our efforts to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy this one-of-a-kind resource.”
- Jim Justice, Governor, State of West Virginia
“As we welcome Governor Moore to this new role, we are looking back at the past 40 years of progress and, more importantly, looking forward to a future that includes a fully restored Chesapeake Bay. Washington, D.C. is proud to be meeting our 2025 pollution reduction commitments, we’re proud to highlight the remarkable progress of the Anacostia watershed and we’re proud to be part of this regional community that remains just as committed today as we were 40 years ago.”
- Muriel Bowser, Mayor, District of Columbia
“The Chesapeake Bay Commission has been a proud partner of the Bay Program from the beginning, helping to achieve consensus and lead action. As a legislator, I know this work is not easy. The key is to stay focused on a common goal. In a watershed as diverse as the Chesapeake, we can all engage around local water quality. The partnership’s science, data, tools and funding empower local communities to improve their own rivers and streams, which in turn benefits the Bay downstream. I am excited about the next chapter as we work collaboratively to further enhance these resources.”
- Scott Martin, Chair, Chesapeake Bay Commission and State Senator, Pennsylvania’s Senate District 13
“The Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) recognizes that the Chesapeake Executive Council has extensive experience in working with local, state and federal governments with the goal of protecting and ensuring a healthy watershed for everyone. New and urgent community challenges demand that we reassess the effectiveness of existing policies and experiment with new approaches that address these needs, such as the creation of inclusive, regulatory sandboxing opportunities for testing and further investment in circuit riders that have already proven to be so effective throughout the region. As such, LGAC calls on the Executive Council to direct assistance to local governments throughout the watershed.”
- Daniel Chao, Chair, Chesapeake Bay Program Local Government Advisory Committee
The Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) reaffirms our dedication to advancing science-based decision-making for Chesapeake Bay restoration with the release of the May 2023 independent report, “Achieving Water Quality Goals in the Chesapeake Bay: A Comprehensive Evaluation of System Response”, or the "CESR" report. This three-year effort sought to evaluate current progress towards the Bay TMDL and water quality standards, and summarizes the STAC evaluation of why progress toward meeting them has been slower than expected. To address implications and findings from CESR, STAC calls for the centering of a stakeholder-led refinement of Bay goals, the exploration of alternative incentives to BMP adoption via “sandboxing" initiatives, increased attention to mass imbalances and their impact on the effectiveness of best management practices, and the pursuit of effective adaptive decision-making and exploration of logic frameworks due to multiple objectives, uncertainties and limited resources.
- Dr. Larry Sanford, Chair, Chesapeake Bay Program Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee
"As the Chesapeake Bay Program celebrates its 40th anniversary, the Stakeholders’ Advisory Committee applauds the partners for the work accomplished, knowing there is yet more to do. We look forward to continuing to support the Program with diverse perspectives that recognize ongoing and emerging challenges to protecting and restoring the Bay watershed for all living resources, including its people."
- Julie Patton Lawson, Chair, Chesapeake Bay Program Stakeholders Advisory Committee