Bay Program partners include federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Staff members work at the Bay Program’s Annapolis, Maryland, office and at partner organizations throughout the Bay watershed."> Bay Program partners include federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Staff members work at the Bay Program’s Annapolis, Maryland, office and at partner organizations throughout the Bay watershed." /> Bay Program partners include federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Staff members work at the Bay Program’s Annapolis, Maryland, office and at partner organizations throughout the Bay watershed.">

Who We Are

The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership that leads and directs Chesapeake Bay restoration and protection. Bay Program partners include federal and state agencies, local governments, non-profit organizations and academic institutions. Staff members work at the Bay Program’s Annapolis, Maryland, office and at partner organizations throughout the Bay watershed.

Currently in development, the Phase 7 Modeling Tools will be used by the partnership to inform decisions related to nutrient and sediment reduction goals outlined in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Integral to this updated suite of tools is the ability to project climate change effect through 2035. The model, which will be ready for use by 2027, consists of six interrelated projects:

  1. High Resolution Land Use
  2. Chesapeake Assessment Scenario Tool (CAST)
  3. Optimization
  4. Agricultural Inputs
  5. Watershed Modeling
  6. Estuarine Modeling
  7. Criteria Assessment

How are the projects interrelated?

CAST is a publicly available model of the Chesapeake Bay watershed used to estimate changes in long-term nutrient and sediment loads due to changes in point sources, land use and land management.  Watershed modeling provides the science behind the calculations in CAST while optimization allows users to find a least cost management option in CAST for a given nutrient and sediment reduction.  The production of new high resolution land use data and the improvement of agricultural inputs will inform and improve the phase 7 watershed modeling products while also providing important data for other CBP goals and outcomes.  Estuarine Modeling translates changes in nutrients and sediment to water quality outcomes in the tidal waters of the Bay.  Criteria Assessment is the process of determining whether the predicted water quality outcomes meet state water quality standards.  The Phase 7 Model project is focused on updating the tools for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL relating nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reductions to improvements in tidal dissolved oxygen, clarity, and chlorophyll.  Some of the projects will also be used to track CBP goals other than the TMDL and are represented as crossing the Phase 7 boundary.

Partnership Planning Documents

High resolution land use

CBPO lead – Peter Claggett

High resolution land use products are being developed at the meter scale for delivery in 2024.  They will go directly into the watershed modeling efforts and provide information for other CBP partnership goals and outcomes.

View the current upgrade timeline (5/6/2022) >

View the current planning document (5/6/2022) >

View a current presentation (4/25/22) >


CBPO Lead – Olivia Devereux

CAST will receive upgrades to improve transparency and usability as part of a project that will also redesign the process for submitting management practice data. A spatial interface to CAST will be designed to give output for a user-defined spatial extent.

View the current upgrade timeline (3/1/2022) >

View the current versions for evaluation timeline (3/1/2022) >


CBPO Lead – Lewis Linker

Optimization software is being developed so that CAST scenarios can be generated representing the least cost to achieve a desired level of nutrient and sediment reduction. 

View the current planning spreadsheet >

Agricultural Inputs

CBPO Lead - Tom Butler

The Agricultural Modeling Team will examine and revise the agricultural inputs to CAST.  The goal is to achieve a realistic representation of the nutrients from manure, commercial fertilizer, fixation, crop uptake, soil storages, and other agricultural inputs over time.

View the current planning spreadsheet >

Watershed Modeling

CBPO Lead – Gary Shenk

The watershed model underlying the CAST calculations is being updated for better representation of physical processes, improved nutrient application calculations, and variable-scale modeling. 

View the current planning spreadsheet >

View the current process flowchart >

Estuarine Modeling

CBPO Lead – Lewis Linker

A new estuarine model is being developed for the entire tidal Chesapeake (the Main Bay Model) incorporating the latest techniques.  Multiple Tributary Models will also be developed as testbeds for improved overall model performance.

View the current planning spreadsheet >

Criteria assessment

CBPO Lead – Peter Tango

The estuarine water quality criteria assessment procedures are being considered for revision based on climate change considerations.  A separate effort looks to create a new Bay interpolator using vertical profiler data which can evaluate criteria which could not previously be evaluated.

View the current project overview >

Sector verification guidance


Bay Program-approved agricultural BMPs represent the largest and most diverse group of conservation practices and land use conversions across all sectors. The diversity of BMPs reflects the diversity of agricultural production and land uses across the Bay watershed. To address the challenge of providing verification guidance for this diverse collection of BMPs in a simple format, agricultural BMPs are organized into three categories: a) Visual Assessment BMPs- Single-Year; b) Visual Assessment BMPs- Multi-Year; c) Non-Visual Assessment BMPs. The three BMP categories are primarily based on the assessment method for their physical presence, as well as on the respective life spans or permanence on the landscape.


The five forestry BMPs for which verification guidance is presented are: a) agricultural riparian forest buffers; b) agricultural tree planting; c) expanded tree canopy; d) urban riparian forest buffers; and e) forest harvesting BMPs. Four of the five forestry BMPs covered by this guidance are types of tree planting designed to improve environmental and water quality conditions in currently non-forested areas, including tree plantings in riparian areas.

Urban Stormwater

The Bay Program’s Urban Stormwater Workgroup devoted the past several years to developing guidance on urban BMP verification. This verification guidance represents a synthesis of the consensus reached by the Workgroup on the challenge of providing verification guidance for this collection of BMPs. The guidance has been divided into four major categories: a) BMPs located in MS4 areas; b) BMPs located in non-MS4 areas; c) Non-regulatory BMPs; and d) Legacy BMPs.


As a part of its role within the Bay Program partnership, the Wastewater Treatment Workgroup was charged with addressing BMP verification guidance for wastewater treatment facilities, combined sewer overflow (CSO) areas and advanced on-site treatment systems. The existing national and state regulatory systems for wastewater treatment facilities and CSOs meet or exceed the Bay Program partners’ BMP verification principles through a rigorous system of permits, inspections and monitoring requirements that ensure accountability, proper design, implementation, operation and maintenance. For on-site treatment systems, the Workgroup’s recommended verification guidance is based on the best existing regulations and programs. Verification through existing regulatory programs will confirm if the upgraded wastewater facilities, CSOs or on-site treatment systems are designed, installed and maintained over time and meeting their assigned load reduction targets.


Restoration, creation and enhancement of wetlands provides a range of benefits for wildlife, fish, and other aquatic species. Wetlands also filter nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from overland flow, thereby providing quantifiable water quality benefits. As such, wetland restoration and creation are recognized best management practices in the Bay Program’s Watershed Model. Developed by the Bay Program’s Wetlands Workgroup, the guidance for verifying wetland projects is focused on ensuring their pollutant removal performance is appropriately credited toward watershed jurisdictions’ two-year milestone commitments and their Watershed Implementation Plans. Though defined differently, wetland restoration, creation and enhancement projects will all undergo similar verification processes.

Stream Restoration

The Center for Watershed Protection, in their role as the Bay Program’s Sediment Reduction and Stream Corridor Restoration Coordinator, developed BMP verification guidance with input from the Bay Program’s Habitat Goal Implementation Team. The guidance is adapted from the 2013 Urban Stormwater Workgroup Memo, Final Recommended Principles and Protocols for Urban Stormwater BMP Verification (and Recommendations of the Expert Panel to Define Removal Rates for Individual Stream Restoration Projects. Additional guidance for stream restoration projects, specific to riparian wetlands, is available in the Wetlands verification guidance.

Bay Program partners developed and adopted a set of five BMP verification principles to both guide the development of the verification guidance and to establish the basis upon which to evaluate the development and implementation of enhanced jurisdictional BMP verification programs.

The principles provide the common bar with which partners could judge the distinct components of the framework to ensure everything would be aligned to hit the same mark in the end. A complete overview of the five verification principles can be found in Appendix A.

Chesapeake Bay BMP Verification Principles adopted in December 2012.

Principle Description
Practice Reporting Affirms that verification is required for practices, treatments and technologies reported for nitrogen, phosphorus and/or sediment pollutant load reduction credit through the Bay Program. This principle also outlines general expectations for BMP verification protocols.
Scientific Rigor Asserts that BMP verification should assure effective implementation through scientifically rigorous, defensible and professionally established and accepted sampling, inspection and certification protocols. Recognizes that BMP verification shall allow for varying methods of data collection that balance scientific rigor with cost effectiveness and the priority placed upon the practice in achieving pollution reduction.
Public Confidence Calls for BMP verification protocols to incorporate transparency in both the processes of verification and of tracking and reporting the underlying data. Recognizes that levels of transparency will vary depending upon source sector, acknowledging existing legal limitations and the need to respect individual confidentiality to ensure access to non-cost shared practice data
Adaptive Management Recognizes that advancements in practice reporting and scientific rigor, as described above, are integral to assuring desired long-term outcomes while reducing the uncertainty found in natural systems and human behaviors. Calls for BMP verification protocols to recognize existing funding and allow for reasonable levels of flexibility in the allocation or targeting of funds.
Sector Equity Calls for each jurisdiction’s BMP verification program to strive to achieve equity in the measurement of functionality and effectiveness of implemented BMPs among and across the source sectors.

The following are links to existing reports, documents and guidance developed through the Bay Program partnership, as well as additional resources to support development and implementation of enhanced verification of BMPs within the Bay watershed.

Jurisdictional BMP Verification Program Plans Submitted as of December 2019


District of Columbia


New York



West Virginia

Revised Final Jurisdictional BMP Verification Program Plans Submitted in March 2016

Below are links to each jurisdiction’s revised final BMP Verification Program Plans. Plans were submitted for EPA review by March 4, 2016 for Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and April 4, 2016 for Virginia. Maryland and D.C.’s program plans were previously approved by EPA and, therefore, not re-submitted. Also below are links to each jurisdiction’s responses to EPA’s remaining major comments.


District of Columbia


New York



West Virginia

EPA Decisions and Review Comments on Jurisdictions’ November 2015 Revised Draft Program Plans


District of Columbia


New York



West Virginia

Revised Draft Jurisdictional BMP Verification Program Plans Submitted on November 16, 2015

Below are links to each jurisdiction’s Chesapeake Bay webpage, where you can find their revised draft BMP Verification Program Plans. Plans were submitted for EPA review on November 16, 2015.

Draft Jurisdictional BMP Verification Program Plans Submitted on June 30, 2015


District of Columbia


New York



West Virginia

Feedback on Jurisdictions’ Draft June 30, 2015 Verification Program Plans


October 2014 Basinwide BMP Verfication Framework Document


What resources are available to help with BMP Verification?

BMP Verification Implementation Timeline

CBP BMP Verification Program 2015 Schedule

Past Meetings Involving BMP Verification

Below is a list of Chesapeake Bay Program sponsored meetings and teleconferences that included BMP verification on the agenda from 2015. Links are provided to the CBP calendar entry or other site with an agenda, minutes and meeting materials. For a complete list of all Chesapeake Bay Program sponsored meetings involving BMP verification, please see Appendix N.

BMP Verification Committee

March 3, 2015:

BMP Verification Review Panel

What is the Basinwide BMP Verification Framework?

The Chesapeake Bay Basinwide BMP Verification Framework addresses twelve specific elements in the report and the supporting appendices. A complete listing of the twelve framework elements and links to their documentation within the report are provided on this page.

BMP Verification Principles

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership defined and adopted five principles to guide partners’ efforts as they build on existing local, state and federal practice tracking and reporting systems and make enhancements to their BMP verification programs.

BMP Verification Review Panel

Through a process described in Appendix C of the report, an independent BMP Verification Review Panel of 13 regionally and nationally recognized experts was established by the Bay Program partnership to examine the degree to which jurisdictions’ practice tracking, verification and reporting programs meet the parameters delineated in the Bay Program partnership’s adopted verification principles and verification guidance.

Sector verification guidance

Six technical workgroups under the Bay Program’s Water Quality Goal Implementation Team and the Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team were tasked with developing verification guidance for use by the seven watershed jurisdictions in further developing and enhancing their existing BMP tracking, verification and reporting programs. The six sets of workgroup-based verification guidance are: agriculture, forestry, urban stormwater, wastewater, wetlands and streams.

Practice life spans

Bay Program partners have agreed to establish practice life spans for all of the approved BMPs and apply these life spans within the workgroups’ verification guidance and the jurisdictions’ verification programs and underlying protocols. Bay Program partners agreed to the crediting of a practice after its recorded lifespan as long as the proper level of re-verification occurs, confirming the practice is still present and functioning. The framework document outlines in greater detail the specific steps to be taken in factoring practice lifespans into the workgroups’ BMP verification guidance, the BMP verification framework and the jurisdictions’ BMP verification programs.

Full access to federal cost-shared practice data

The objective of this framework element is to ensure that all six states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed have full access to all federally cost-shared conservation practice data in order to: give them a greater capacity for analysis and understanding of agricultural conservation practice implementation across the landscape; to support the adaptive management and targeting of conservation programs; fully credit producers for their implemented conservation practices; to eliminate any double counting; and promote success in attaining water-quality goals. To accomplish this goal, the partnership recommends that states establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 1619 Conservation Cooperator agreement between the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and one of more of their state conservation agencies.

Enhanced reporting of federally cost shared practices

The Bay Program’s Agriculture Workgroup has identified opportunities to enhance the recordkeeping associated with USDA conservation practices, in order to capture specific information that can be used to more efficiently integrate the data with jurisdictional datasets and to more accurately represent the practices in the Bay Program partners’ Scenario Builder tool and its various Bay watershed and estuarine water quality models. A number of USDA conservation practices were identified described as having substantial limitation in the amount of data available for translating between USDA conservation practice codes and Bay Program-approved practice definitions.

Accounting for non-cost share practices

For practices installed outside of a regulatory program and without the assistance of a federal or state cost-shared program, there is no permit or contractual vehicle to ensure adherence to specific practice standards, specific planning requirements, and project performance. There is no established mechanism for requiring reporting or monitoring through time or for ensuring public access to the practice data. These are the challenges facing the Bay Program partners and their shared desire to ensure the accurate and transparent accounting for and crediting of all nutrient and sediment pollutant load reducing practices which are in place and operating correctly. The Chesapeake Bay Program Resource Improvement Practice Definitions and Verification Visual Indicators Report provides Bay Program partners with the guidance required for the collection and verification of non-cost-shared agricultural conservation practices that meet Bay Program partners’ BMP definitions and establish definitions and verifications methods for Resource Improvement Practices.

Preventing double counting

There are many situations where a jurisdiction tracks an implemented conservation practice and the USDA also tracks the identical practice. Typically, both the state and the USDA are tracking the same practice, because they both provided financial assistance to the farmer for the practice implementation. In these cases, there must be a clear protocol in place to choose which data to report in order to avoid double counting. In 2012, the six watershed states employed various techniques to address this issue. The solutions are documented in the Hively et al. 2013 report, and the state-specific methods, which apply to cost-shared and non-cost shared practice data, are included in the BMP Verification Framework as Appendix F.

Clean-up of historic BMP databases

The Bay Program’s Watershed Technical Workgroup is responsible for organizing the efforts across all partners to create more accurate BMP records from 1985 through the present. The clean-up of the jurisdictions’ historical BMP databases is being done in response to: the need for re-calibration of the Bay Program’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model as part of the 2017 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Mid-point Assessment; and to better support the basin-wide and Bay-wide efforts underway to explain observed long-term water quality trends in the hundreds of monitoring stations across the watershed and tidal waters. Guidance from the BMP Verification Committee was provided at their March 13, 2013 meeting.

Documentation of jurisdictional BMP verification programs

In the process of developing new and revising existing BMP verification protocols and programs, jurisdictions are strongly encouraged to consult the four products developed by the Bay Program’s independent BMP Verification Review Panel:

Each of these matrices and checklists are presented and described in Section 3 for the Basinwide BMP Verification Framework report.

Evaluation and Oversight

Bay Program partners have agreed to a suite of ongoing evaluation and oversight procedures and processes to ensure the five BMP verification principles adopted by partners are adhered to and effectively carried out. These procedures and processes also reflect the Bay Program partners’ commitment to adapt to new scientific findings and experiences from verification efforts underway.

Communications and Outreach

The Bay Program’s Communications Workgroup has developed a BMP verification communications and outreach strategy to enable partners to have consistent, clear internal messages as they gradually build toward public implementation of the BMP verification framework. As described within the communications strategy, having solid internal understanding and messaging will enable Bay Program partners to more smoothly and consistently communicate about BMP verification with various external audiences and “implementers” across the watershed as the BMP verification process moves forward.

Picture of a farmer showing best management practices on his farm

Photo Credit: MdAgDept/Flickr

Best management practice (BMP) verification is “the process through which agency partners ensure practices, treatments and technologies resulting in reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and/or sediment pollutant loads are implemented and operating correctly.” It can be viewed as a life cycle process that includes initial inspection, follow-up checks and evaluation of BMP performance.

Why is BMP Verification important to local stream and Bay restoration?

The implementation, tracking and reporting of BMPs has been at the center of the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership’s restoration efforts for almost three decades.

When properly installed and functioning, these conservation and technological practices reduce the amounts of nutrients and sediment entering local waters and the tidal Chesapeake Bay. In addition, these practices can help reduce local flooding, protect sources of drinking water, ensure against the collapse of stream banks and support local economies through the return of clean water and viable habitats suitable for recreational activities. Conversely, improperly installed or functioning BMPs do little to mitigate the effects that nutrient and sediment runoff can have on local waterways.

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership must be rigorous in its tracking of its partners’ progress toward meeting goals for cleaner Bay waters. In order to do so accurately into the future, it will be critical for the partnership to verify that BMPs across the region are being implemented correctly and are, in fact, effectively reducing nutrient and sediment pollution as expected. It will help the partnership measure success, locate areas in which partners need to adapt, and ensure that these conservation and technological practices are doing the job of protecting people’s properties, lands, riparian habitats and local streams.

How are BMPs verified?

The BMP verification process can be seen as a cycle with three primary steps:



The Bay Program partnership views verification as a life cycle process, including initial inspection, follow-up checks and evaluation of BMP performance.

Step 1: “Is the BMP There?”
The first part of the life cycle is the initial inspection upon the installation of the BMP, meant to answer the question, “Is the BMP there?” Following the initial inspection and reporting of the data, quality assurance and validation of the data ensures that the data was collected, compiled and submitted correctly, and that issues of double counting and the clean-up of historical BMP data have been addressed.

Step 2: “Is the BMP still operating correctly?”
The second part of the life cycle is completion of follow-up checks, carried out at the appropriate frequency to ensure that the BMP is operating correctly throughout the lifespan of that practice.

Step 3: “Systematic Data Collection”
The third part of the life cycle is performance outcomes. This stage is focused on the systematic collection of data that will be used to ensure that the BMPs are working as expected, while also allowing the partnership to adapt approaches to the future installation and maintenance of the practices, and to help further refine their pollutant reduction efficiencies.

Who is involved in verifying BMPs?

  • Farmers
  • Soil and water conservation districts
  • Homeowners
  • Businesses including contractors and consultants
  • Non-governmental organizations (e.g., watershed organizations, environmental advocacy organizations)
  • County and municipal public works, environmental, recreational, and transportation agencies
  • Regional and local municipal wastewater authority agencies
  • State agricultural, forestry, environmental, natural resources and transportation agencies
  • Federal agricultural, forestry, environmental, natural resources, fisheries, parks, defense, and transportation agencies
  • Federal facilities

In preparation for the 2017 Mid-Point Assessment, the CBP Partnership has expressed priorities for the Phase 6 watershed model development which are detailed in documents under the ‘Projects and Resources’ tab on the Water Quality GIT page.  Initial priorities were set in the October 2012 water quality GIT meeting.  These priorities have been updated and refined by recommendations from subsequent workshops and CBP meetings.  The MPA master schedule lists these priorities in a table format.  Additional documents on the web page are specific work plans to accomplish these tasks.

Out of necessity, phase 6 development is occurring along multiple parallel paths.  These must eventually meet in a draft phase 6 watershed model and scenario builder that will be ready for full partnership review beginning January 1 2016.  These parallel paths encompass all of the CBP priorities.

This document summarizes the priorities and identifies lead researchers for each effort.  The descriptions here are brief with links to more detailed workplans.

Picture of woman looking at a water sample

Protection and restoration efforts within the Chesapeake Bay watershed are based on environmental data—measurements of pollutants, water quality, land use, algae, fish, crabs and submerged aquatic vegetation. Scientists, researchers and policy makers must be able to trust the accuracy of the data they use for evaluating and managing these natural resources. To ensure this accuracy, the Chesapeake Bay Program maintains a Quality Assurance Program in which data from over 40 agencies and research institutions are determined to be scientifically valid and comparable among researchers working in all parts of the watershed.

Quality Assurance Requirements for Grants and Cooperative Agreements

Organizations funded by the U.S. EPA that generate, compile or use existing environmental data are required to establish and implement a quality system. Typically, grantees and cooperators describe their own quality systems in two formal documents, a Quality Management Plan and a Quality Assurance Project Plan. These plans must be approved by EPA prior to the start of monitoring or data analysis activities. See the Chesapeake Bay Program Office Grant and Cooperative Agreement Guidance for additional information.

Consensus Methods and Quality Assurance

Scientists follow proven methods and quality control procedures to collect and report environmental data. Sampling and analytical methods for water quality are selected collaboratively through the Data Integrity Workgroup. Similarly, procedures for the implementation, tracking and verification of Best Management Practices (BMPs) are developed collaboratively through the BMP Verification Committee. Agencies adopt CBP consensus methods and document them in Quality Assurance Project Plans. These plans are then approved and made available through their associated web page:

Quality Assessments and Performance Evaluations

Water quality data are systematically checked at each stage of production using quality control samples. In addition, quality assurance staff conduct on-site audits and monitor performance on inter-laboratory split samples, reference samples and blind audit samples. When submitted, data must pass over 160 automated checks prior to being accepted into the Chesapeake Environmental Data Repository.

Quality Assurance Organization

The Quality Assurance Program consists of an internal EPA component within the Chesapeake Bay Program Office and numerous inter-agency workgroups under the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership. Quality assurance within the Chesapeake Bay Program Office is done by the Quality Assurance (QA) Officer, the QA Coordinator and EPA Project Officers. QA responsibilities are divided among the following staff:

  • U.S. EPA Project Officers ensure that recipients of federal funds satisfy the quality requirements and are ultimately responsible for resolving deficiencies identified in technical reviews, audits and data analyses.
  • Lee McDonnell, QA Officer, has the authority and responsibility for managing quality assurance activities within the U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office.
  • Durga Ghosh, QA Coordinator, coordinates efforts relating to environmental data quality, reviews, quality assurance project plans, audits field and laboratory operations and assesses laboratory performance.
  • Brian Burch, Data Center Manager, is responsible for ensuring all the environmental data generated through EPA funded monitoring programs have been subjected to an audit of data quality prior to being released on the Chesapeake Information Management System.
  • Terry Simpson, EPA Region 3 QA Manager, reviews and approves quality management plans submitted to the Chesapeake Bay Program Office.

The Chesapeake Bay Program Office Quality Manual contains additional information on the Chesapeake Bay Program Office quality system.

Quality Assurance Resources

This grant program is currently closed and will reopen in 2023. 

The Chesapeake Bay Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program awards grants of $200,000 to $1 million to support innovative, sustainable and cost-effective approaches that dramatically reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its local waterways.

Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction grants are awarded on a competitive basis to projects that target and reflect the region’s diverse landscapes and sources of pollution that exist throughout the Bay watershed.

Priorities for funding include:

  • Field-scale demonstrations of innovative technologies, conservation practices and best management practices (BMPs) that have the potential to significantly reduce excess nutrient loads.
  • Demonstrations of the most effective and efficient strategies for implementing nutrient pollution reductions in targeted small watersheds.
  • Water quality trading demonstrations and other market-based strategies to reduce nutrient pollution.
  • Demonstrations of strategies that overcome barriers to adoption of the most effective and efficient BMPs and conservation practices.

The Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Program. The NFWF produces an annual report of the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to summarizes the collective impact of the grant investments made through both the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction and Small Watershed Grant programs.

Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Projects

Since 2007, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grant Program, managed and administered under cooperative agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, have awarded more than $69 million to support approximately 149 conservation projects that provide innovative approaches to accelerating adoption of the most cost effective and sustainable nutrient and sediment pollution reductions throughout the watershed. These grants have leveraged over $102 million in matching funds.

Download an overview of project specific information for the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction project grants funded from 2007 through October 2016.

The funded Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction projects can be located through an interactive National Fish and Wildlife Foundation map. NFWF has supported thousands of conservation projects in the United States and abroad since 1985. In total, NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (which includes both Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction and Small Watershed Grant programs) has awarded more than $125 million to support approximately 964 conservation projects throughout the watershed, all while leveraging a total of $233 million in matching funds.

During the collection and testing of water quality samples, scientists continually check for errors through the use of internal quality control samples such as standards, blanks, duplicates and spikes. The Chesapeake Bay Program also requires the analysis of split samples, blind audit samples and USGS reference samples to permit an independent evaluation of laboratory proficiency.

Coordinated Split Sample Program

The Chesapeake Bay Coordinated Split Sample Program (CSSP) is an interlaboratory testing program that involves the distribution of identical surface water samples to participating state, federal and academic monitoring agencies. The samples are processed according to standard protocols and the results evaluated quarterly to ensure that the monitoring programs are producing comparable data. Comparable data are important to Chesapeake Bay scientists because data are often combined from a variety of sources and time periods to conduct Bay-wide assessments and modeling applications.

The CSSP is comprised of a mainstem component and a tributary component to represent saline and fresh water matrices. Agencies and their laboratories participate in one or both components according to their routine sample type. The results of each split sample study are reviewed by Bay Program quality assurance staff and discussed at Data Integrity Workgroup meetings. When results are inconsistent among agencies, the workgroup investigates possible causes and recommends corrective actions.

Blind Auditing Program

The Chesapeake Bay Program Blind Audit Program provides laboratory proficiency testing samples for dissolved and particulate nutrients and chlorophyll at the relatively low concentrations commonly found in estuarine systems. Prepared concentrates of dissolved and particulate substances, whose concentrations are unknown to the analysts, are distributed twice a year to approximately 14 regional laboratories. The results provide a measure of laboratory accuracy as the samples are fully prepared prior to distribution and the errors associated with field filtering and subsampling are minimized. The Nutrient Analytical Services Laboratory at the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory is the sole provider of the Blind Audit samples. Blind audit results can be donloaded on the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science's website.

USGS Reference Samples

Chesapeake Bay Program laboratories also participate in the USGS Standard Reference Sample (SRS) Program to establish their accuracy and comparability to other laboratories at a national level. The low-level and/or regular-level nutrient SRS samples are analyzed twice a year. Results are submitted online through the SRS project website. USGS performs statistical analysis and releases them on the website by lab number. Bay Program staff downloads the data and graphs results from Chesapeake Bay laboratories for review at Data Integrity Workgoup meetings. Graphs from 2002-2003 are also available.

Chesapeake Bay Mainstem and Tributary Monitoring Quality Assurance

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) are responsible for the collection and quality assurance of water quality monitoring data in the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries. The tidal monitoring program is designed to represent the complexities of the estuary, with over 100 tidal mid-channel stations monitored at least once a month. At each station, a hydrographic profile is made by measuring temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen at approximately one- to two-meter intervals through the water column.

Standardized sampling and analytical methods are used to detect low levels of nutrients, chlorophyll and particulates; these methods were approved by EPA in 1986 and are still used today. The Chesapeake Bay Program Data Integrity Workgroup is charged with the standardization of methods and the use of comparable methods for all Bay Program water quality monitoring programs. Methods are documented in standard operating procedures that follow the Bay Program's Methods and Quality Assurance for Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Monitoring Programs. Chapter IV, Mainstem and Tributary Field Procedures contains the most recent guidelines for sample collection and field measurements in the tidal waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

Field and laboratory personnel continually check for random and systematic errors with quality control samples during the collection and analysis of water samples. Blank, duplicate and spiked samples, and known standards are processed in the field and/or laboratory to monitor bias and imprecision in the data. The accuracy and comparability of laboratory data are externally evaluated up to 12 times a year using several types of inter-laboratory performance testing and comparison samples: Bay Program Coordinated Split Sample Programs, Bay Program Blind Audit Program and USGS Standard Reference Samples.

Maryland DNR and Virginia DEQ have EPA-approved Quality Assurance Project Plans (QAPPs) that describe in detail the methods and quality assurance activities for this program. The following QAPPs cover the Maryland and Virginia Chesapeake Bay Mainstem and Tributary Monitoring Programs:

Shallow Water Monitoring Quality Assurance

The Chesapeake Bay Program uses in situ monitoring technologies to provide more accurate estimates of turbidity, chlorophyll-a and dissolved oxygen levels in shallow, nearshore waters. Very detailed maps of surface concentrations are obtained from DATAFLOW instrumentation. As a small vessel speeds along the shoreline, surface water is pumped on-board and flows across YSI multi-parameter sensors that automatically record measurements every 25 feet. Sensors are calibrated before and after each cruise. At five or more stops, field crews measure light attenuation (PAR and secchi depth) and collect discrete samples for chlorophyll-a, dissolved oxygen and suspended solids analyses. Discrete sample data are then correlated with the in situ measurements.

Data collected using this system show the gradients and hot-spots that could not be detected with traditional fixed station monitoring. DATAFLOW cruises are conducted once a month in the spring and summer.

Semi-permanent installations of YSI multi-parameter sensors are installed in shallow waters of selected tributaries of the Bay. Sensors remain at the sites for up to nine months, recording data every 15 minutes. Once every two weeks, field crews calibrate the sensors, download the data, measure light attenuation and collect discrete samples. Data are carefully checked for accuracy and then published on the internet. Three of the sites are part of the National Estuarine Research Reserve monitoring system. The locations and data from the Maryland sites are available from Eyes On the Bay; information and data from the Virginia sites are available from Virginia Estuarine and Coastal Observing System.

The QAPPs and standard operating procedures for Shallow Water Monitoring Programs are:

Analytical Method Equivalency Studies

In the 1980s, Bay Program scientists developed analytical methods sensitive enough to detect the low levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in saline waters. The methods were approved by EPA Region 3 at that time and later validated and published by EPA's National Exposure Research Laboratories in the document Methods for the Determination of Chemical Substances in Marine and Estuarine Environmental Matrices - 2nd Edition. Through the Data Integrity Workgroup, Virginia and Maryland laboratories have conducted numerous comparability studies to demonstrate the equivalency of Bay Program methods and procedural modifications, many of which are listed below.

The Chesapeake Bay Program nontidal water quality monitoring program began in 2004 to better estimate nutrient and sediment loadings from the region’s rivers and streams.

The nontidal monitoring network consists of 126 stations throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed and includes the nine River Input Monitoring stations, representing about 2/3 of the flow above the fall line. Stations are located near USGS stream-flow gages to permit estimates of nutrient and sediment loadings and trends in loadings delivered downstream. Routine samples are collected monthly, and eight additional storm-event samples are collected per year to obtain 20 samples per year, representing a range of discharge and loading conditions.

The Chesapeake Bay Program Integrated Monitoring Networks Workgroup provides inter-agency coordination among the nontidal network participants to ensure the continuity of operations. Sampling is performed by nine agencies in five states, with five laboratories analyzing the samples. Participants follow standard operating procedures that conform to Nontidal Network protocols and quality control specifications, which are based on USGS sampling methods and EPA-approved analytical methods.

The Bay Program Data Integrity Workgroup routinely evaluates laboratory performance through inter-laboratory studies such as the Chesapeake Bay Split Sample and Blind Audit Programs and the USGS Standard Reference Sample Program. Nontidal water quality data are reported to the Bay Program and are available in the Data Hub.

Quality Assurance Project Plans

Related Documents

Are QA Plans needed for my project?

Organizations conducting programs and research projects funded by EPA that acquire, generate, compile or use environmental data are required to establish and implement a quality system. Within the Chesapeake Bay Program, these projects include the collection of groundwater, surface water, sediment, atmospheric, living resource and remotely sensed data. Also subject to EPA quality requirements are data used for environmental model development, calibration, verification and application, and data collected from existing sources of information such as computer databases, models and literature searches.

Grantees and cooperators usually describe their quality systems in two formal documents: a Quality Management Plan and a Quality Assurance Project Plan. EPA must review and approve all Quality Management and Quality Assurance Project Plans prior to the initiation of environmental data collection and/or compilation activities.

What's required for a Quality Management Plan?

The Quality Management Plan documents management practices used to ensure that the results of technical work are of the type and quality needed for their intended use. The elements to be addressed in a Quality Management Plan include: management and organization; quality system description; personnel qualifications and training; procurement of items and services; documentation and records; computer hardware and software; planning; implementation of work processes; assessment and response; and quality improvement. The Quality Management Plan is sometimes viewed as the umbrella document under which individual projects are conducted. State environmental agencies typically have one Quality Management Plan that covers all of their programs involving monitoring.

Quality Management Plans must be prepared in accordance with EPA QA/R-2: EPA Requirements for Quality Management Plans must be submitted at least 45 days prior to the initiation of data collection to the EPA Project Officer or Terry Simpson, EPA Region 3 QA Manager, for review and approval.

What's required for a Quality Assurance Project Plan?

All monitoring programs and research projects must have an EPA approved Quality Assurance Project Plan prior to the start of monitoring or data compilation. A QA Project Plan documents the technical and quality aspects of a project, including project management, implementation and assessment. It specifies responsibilities, monitoring objectives, sampling design, sample collection methods, analytical methods, quality control, data management and data validation activities. The detail expected will correspond to the cost, complexity and duration of the project. Specific requirements for quality assurance project plans are defined in QA/R-5: EPA Requirements for Quality Assurance Project Plans (EPA 1999)

How do I get my QA Project Plan approved?

Submit your QA Project Plan to the EPA Project Officer the draft grant application, or list the QA Project Plan as a deliverable to be received at least 30 days prior to the initiation of each data collection activity. The QA Project Plan is reviewed by the Chesapeake Bay Program QA Coordinator using a checklist (11 kb) for reviewing Quality Assurance Project Plans to ensure it addresses the required elements. Plans must be approved by the Quality Assurance Officer before sampling begins.

Approved QA plans should be submitted in an electronic file for released on the Chesapeake Bay Program website. See the topics below for examples of approved QA Project Plans:

Quality Assurance Planning Resources

Picture of resource land in the Chesapeake Bay

The Resource Lands Assessment (RLA) provides a regional, multi-state look at the most important remaining resource lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) models and expert knowledge help assess the value of resource lands within the watershed to: provide guidance to state and local governments in their land protection strategies, serve as a resource for the land trust community, suggest conservation focus areas to complement watershed restoration plans and identify areas important to the forest products industry.


The Bay Program developed analytical approaches for assessing the value of forests, farms and wetlands within the Chesapeake watershed using GIS models to manipulate and combine data from a variety of sources. The resulting assessment models can be utilized individually or in combination. The composite data sets can be reclassified and applied at different geographic scales based on the needs of the user.


Each of the six assessment models uses a series of GIS data layers that were selected to represent ecological, cultural or socio-economic phenomena. Data layers were selected based on their importance in assigning value to the landscape and weighted using input from resource experts within and outside of the Bay Program. Each assessment model contains different assumptions for appropriate data, the use of weights and the limitations regarding display and interpretation of the composite results. Below is additional information on the methods employed, maps and data used for each assessment model.

  • Ecological Network Model

    The Ecological Network Assessment aims to identify the most important remaining habitats in the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and D.C. portions of the Bay watershed. The assessment applies a “hubs and corridors” approach, which is based on principles of landscape ecology and conservation biology, that suggest that size and connectivity are critical factors of high integrity habitat.

  • Water Quality Protection Model

    The Water Quality model aims to identify forests and wetlands important in protecting water quality and sustaining watershed integrity. This “watershed value” is based on physical and biological functions that store precipitation, retain and assimilate nutrients, moderate runoff, protect soils and maintain important critical landscape functions such as those of riparian buffers.

  • Forest Economics Model

    The identification of economically important forest lands focuses on the potential for future economic benefits associated with timber management activities. This considers not only the potential economic gain from forest harvest operations, but also the long-term economic sustainability of forest management and the local importance of the timber and wood products industry.

  • Prime Farmland Model

    Assessing the extent of farming on prime soils in the Bay watershed is a useful measure for determining the lands of highest importance for agricultural productivity and sustainability. Areas of intense agricultural activity on prime soils can be overlaid with maps of development pressure to prioritize agricultural preservation activities.

  • Cultural Assessment Model

    Growth and development not only threaten lands of high value for water quality and habitat, but also cultural lands that directly connect many citizens in the Bay watershed to the land. Important in preserving heritage and traditional values, cultural lands often define a sense of place. The objective of the cultural assessment is to identify lands that provide historic and archaeological assets and further inform preservation efforts.

  • Vulnerability Model

    The vulnerability layer evaluates the relative potential risk of future land conversion to urban uses. Vulnerability is defined as a function of suitability for development and proximity to growth “hot spots.” The vulnerability layer is useful as a stand-alone layer to evaluate development trends, but can also be combined with the other RLA layers to prioritize land conservation efforts.


The RLA methodology utilized a wide variety of existing data from federal and state-specific sources. Example data sets included:

  • Land Cover
  • Hydrography
  • Wetlands
  • Roads, Railroads and Power lines
  • Protected Lands
  • Rare Species Locations (Except PA)
  • Watershed Boundaries
  • Acid Mine Drainage
  • Ecoregions
  • Vegetation
  • Potential Habitat Distribution
  • Soils
  • Elevation, Aspect and Slope
  • Forest Fragmentation Metrics
  • Hydrogeomorphic Regions
  • Floodplains
  • Imperviousness
  • Water Quality
  • Drinking Water Supplies
  • Precipitation
  • Human Population (Census)
  • Property Ownership
  • Historic Timber Harvests
  • Resource-Based Economic Data
  • Public and Private Land Designations
  • Mill Locations
  • National Historic Landmarks
  • National Register Historic Districts and Sites
  • State Inventories of Historic Sites
  • Archaeological Sites

Picture of polluted water

The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a comprehensive “pollution diet” to restore the health of the Bay and its local streams, creeks and rivers. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL—the largest such cleanup plan ever developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency—sets limits on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution necessary to meet water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL was prompted by insufficient restoration progress and continued poor water quality in the Bay and its rivers. The TMDL is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures needed to fully restore the Bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025, with at least 60 percent of pollution reductions completed by 2017. Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) detail how and when the six Bay states and the District of Columbia will meet their pollution allocations.

For more information and the latest news about the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, visit the Chesapeake Bay TMDL website.

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL calls for an assessment in 2017 to review our progress toward meeting the nutrient and sediment pollutant load reductions identified in the TMDL, Phase I and Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and two-year milestones.

For a comprehensive overview of the Midpoint Assessment, schedule, and supporting documents, please visit our Chesapeake Bay TMDL Midpoint Assessment page.

Picture of a tree sprout

The Chesapeake Bay is an incredibly complex system—and funding its restoration can seem as complicated as the ecosystem itself. Numerous federal agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and private interests financially support the restoration effort described in the commitments of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. The Budget and Finance Workgroup supports the Chesapeake Bay Program in achieving the goals established in the Watershed Agreement by serving as a focal point for coordination, innovation and accurate reporting related to budgeting and program finance.

Coordinating the Effort

Pollution in the Chesapeake Bay watershed comes from hundreds of wastewater treatment plants, thousands of farms and millions of people who reside and recreate in the watershed. A comprehensive restoration strategy such as the one pursued by the Chesapeake Bay Program may be the only effective way to address an expansive ecosystem that integrates developed areas, agriculture and natural resources as thoroughly as in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Funding provided through the Chesapeake Bay Program is a key factor in leveraging funds from a variety of sources and facilitates the efforts of many partners. 

Since its formation in 1983, several written agreements have guided the Chesapeake Bay Program’s efforts to reduce pollution and restore the ecosystem. By setting collaborative, quantifiable goals, any stakeholder—from federal and state agencies to local watershed organizations—can do their part to achieve the outcome. As such, although we can measure progress toward achieving our collective goals, it can be difficult to quantify the extent of financial resources that support the entire Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. However, specific information is available for contributions at the level of federal and state agencies.

Federal and State Budgets

Many federal and state agencies participate in the Chesapeake Bay Program partnership. Through the authority of the Chesapeake Bay Accountability and Recovery Act, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issues a Chesapeake Bay Restoration Spending Crosscut Report each year, which indicates state and federal partners’ investments in environmental restoration. A breakdown of this federal and state spending is available through ChesapeakeProgress.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The Clean Water Act, Section 117, provides authority for the Chesapeake Bay Program and directs the EPA to maintain a Chesapeake Bay Program Office (CBPO) and to coordinate many of the activities of the program. The CBPO is located in Annapolis, Maryland, and is supported and staffed by many federal, state, academic and non-governmental partners.

Through an annual appropriation from Congress, EPA supports scientific, analytical, communication, outreach and coordinating functions to make the Bay partnership work. Close to two-thirds of the EPA funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program is provided directly to state and local partners for watershed restoration, protection and monitoring.

EPA funding is provided annually to states, local governments, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions through grant programs, including:

  • State Implementation and Monitoring Grants: Multiple types of grants provide significant financial support to Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and D.C. to put restoration work in to action. EPA CBPO funding supports the following grant programs:
    • Chesapeake Bay Implementation Grants (CBIG) support the six states and D.C. work toward meeting the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, with particular emphasis on programs to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.
    • Chesapeake Bay Regulatory and Accountability Program (CBRAP) Grants help the jurisdictions implement and expand their regulatory, accountability, assessment, compliance and enforcement capabilities to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads to meet the water quality goals of the Watershed Agreement and the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL).
    • Monitoring grants support the six states and D.C.’s work to monitor and assess water quality, habitat conditions, nutrient and sediment pollution and more, as well as support data analysis and interpretation of trends.
    • Local implementation funding is used by counties, municipalities, cities, towns, townships and local public authorities or districts to reduce nutrient and sediment loads through key sectors like land development and agriculture.
  • Small Watershed Grants (SWG): These EPA grants, currently administered and leveraged by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), are awarded to local governments and non-governmental organizations working to protect and improve local waters and habitats across the Bay watershed while building citizen-based resource stewardship.
  • Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants (INSR): These larger EPA grants, currently administered and leveraged by NFWF, support innovative solutions to reduce or eliminate nutrient and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
  • Technical Assistance and General Assistance Grants: These grants are awarded competitively to nonprofit organizations, state and local governments, academic institutions and others to implement the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. Additionally, a grant agreement with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland assists local communities in developing financing strategies to pay for water quality improvement.

Other major components of EPA support for the Chesapeake Bay Program include:

  • Office and Personnel: EPA funds support salary and benefits for CBPO staff members and the physical office space needed to support the vast network of scientists, researchers and other experts.
  • Contracts and Inter-agency Agreements: Funding brings experts from other federal agencies, academic institutions and non-governmental organizations to the Bay Program office for projects ranging from agricultural conservation practices to wastewater treatment plant upgrades, ensuring that our restoration efforts incorporate expertise from throughout the watershed.
  • Scientific Analysis and Decision-Support Tools: The scientific functions of the program include modeling, trends analysis, monitoring and analytical tool development, information technology, which are essential to making effective decisions about the restoration effort.

Other Federal Funding

Other federal agencies work closely together as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program to coordinate efforts and resources and interact with state partners. Funding amounts can be found via ChesapeakeProgress.


Chesapeake Bay Program partners recognize the important role finance strategies play in the restoration effort. Throughout the Bay Program’s history, several written agreements—such as the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, signed in 2014—have guided our partners’ work to reduce pollution and restore the ecosystem. Signatories use diverse types of financing approaches they deem appropriate to meet these goals, such as Public-Private Partnerships (P3), state-mandated trust funds, state and local stormwater fees and mechanisms like water quality trading. Each partner is able to employ the approaches that are best suited to their distinct needs as they work to collaboratively reach the agreement’s objectives.

Resources and Reports

Over the years, several reports and organizations have conducted economic evaluations of the Bay and of efforts to restore the estuary, as well as other financing-related studies:


For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Program budget, please contact James Edward, Deputy Director, at

  • Modeling


    By simulating systems too large or too complex for real-world experiments, environmental models allow scientists to predict how management actions could affect our ecosystem.

  • Monitoring


    Monitoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries allows us to detect changes that take place, reveals trends over time and improves our understanding of the natural world.

  • Quality Assurance

    Quality Assurance

    Our Quality Assurance Program ensures the accuracy of environmental data sets, including pollutants, water quality, land use, algae, fish, crabs and submerged aquatic vegetation.

  • Resource Lands Assessment

    Resource Lands Assessment

    The Resource Lands Assessment (RLA) uses GIS models and expert knowledge to provide a regional, multi-state look at the most important remaining resource lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

  • Chesapeake Bay TMDL

    Chesapeake Bay TMDL

    The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is a federal "pollution diet" to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its vast network of streams, creeks and rivers.

  • Watershed Implementation Plans

    Watershed Implementation Plans

    Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) include detailed, specific steps each jurisdiction will take to meet the pollution reduction goals of the TMDL by 2025.

  • BMP Verification

    BMP Verification

    Best Management Practice (BMP) verification is a process that includes initial inspection, follow-up checks and evaluation of BMP performance.

Monitoring the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries allows Bay Program partners to detect changes that take place in the ecosystem, reveals trends over time that can provide valuable information to policy makers and improves our understanding of the natural world. The Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program, which began in 1984, is a Bay-wide cooperative effort involving watershed jurisdictions, several federal agencies, 10 institutions and over 30 scientists.

What do Bay Program partners monitor?

Nineteen physical, chemical and biological characteristics are monitored 20 times a year in the Bay's mainstem and many tributaries.

Freshwater Inputs

Freshwater flowing into the Bay is monitored through an extensive network of monitoring stations. Freshwater inputs influence Bay salinity, nutrient loads, dissolved oxygen levels and other water quality parameters, as well as indirectly affect fish and shellfish populations.

Nutrients and Sediment

Nitrogen, phosphorus and suspended sediment are monitored through a tidal and non-tidal network of monitoring stations. Nutrients contribute to excessive algae growth and decomposition, which can deplete dissolved oxygen that aquatic life needs to survive. Sediment suspended in the water column blocks light underwater grasses need to grow.

Chemical Contaminants

Chemical contaminants—both organic compounds and heavy metals—enter the Bay from a variety of sources, including wastewater, industries, atmospheric deposition and runoff from agricultural, urban and suburban land. These contaminants have been found in sediments at high levels, as well as in the tissues of animals like birds and fish.


In cooperation with the U.S. EPA, the Bay Program has monitored phytoplankton and primary production in the Bay and its tributaries since August 1984. This series of monitoring programs give comprehensive spatial and temporal information on the plankton community. Sampling parameters include detailed taxonomic identifications and abundance measurements of target trophic groups, and geometric shapes of various plankton taxon may be used in calculations to determine carbon sequestration in the Bay.


Maryland and Virginia, in cooperation with the Bay Program, have monitored benthic species abundance in the Bay mainstem and tributaries since the mid-1980s. Benthos monitoring is designed to give comprehensive spatial and temporal information on benthic conditions in the Bay. Data collected as part of this program include detailed taxonomic identifications and counts of benthic species, determination of sample biomass, sediment analysis and hydrographic profiles.

In 1996, a Benthic Sediment Profile Images (SPI) and Image Analysis component was added to Virginia's monitoring program. SPI data are composed of photographic images and image analysis of the vertical bottom sediment profiles.

Finfish and Shellfish

Finfish and shellfish, including anadromous fish, marine-spawning fish, blue crabs and other shellfish, are monitored through stock assessments, fish lift usage and various habitat monitoring initiatives, such as water quality surveys and bottom-mapping.

Underwater Grasses

Underwater grasses—also known as submerged aquatic vegetation or SAV—are a significance source of food for waterfowl and habitat for blue crabs and juvenile finfish. The steep decline in underwater grasses since the 1960s is believed to be the result of human activity. Chesapeake Bay SAV data consist of aerial photography from 1971; 1974; 1978; 1979 (Maryland only); 1980 and 1981 (Virginia only); 1984 through 1987; and 1989 through 1999. The most current data are available through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

Water Temperature, Salinity and Dissolved Oxygen

The Bay Program provides funding to Maryland and Virginia to routinely monitor 19 directly-measured water quality parameters at 49 stations in the Bay's mainstem. The Water Quality Monitoring Program began in June 1984, with stations sampled twice each month in June, July and August and once each month the rest of the year. Special sampling events—called cruises—may be added to record unique weather events.

Organizations coordinate the sampling times of their respective stations so that data for each cruise represents a synoptic picture of the Bay at that point in time. At each station, a hydrographic profile—including water temperature, salinity and dissolved oxygen—is made at approximately 1- to 2-meter intervals. Water samples for chemical analysis, such as nutrients and chlorophyll, are collected at the surface and bottom, and at two additional depths depending on the existence and location of a pycnocline. Correlative data on sea state and climate are also collected.

Monitoring resources

  • The EPA publishes Multi-Resolution Land Characteristics (MRLC) Land Cover data on 15 classes of land cover—water, low-intensity developed high-intensity residential, high-intensity commercial/industrial, hay/pasture, row crops, other grass, evergreen forest, mixed forest, deciduous forest, woody wetland, emergent herbaceous wetland, and three classes of bare.
  • NASA LANDSAT Imagery gathers remotely sensed images of the land surface and surrounding coastal regions for global change research, regional environmental change studies and other civil and commercial purposes.
  • National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) data is published by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Each data layer comprises the area equivalent to one 7.5' quad (1:24,000 scale) map. Wetlands are delineated from photo interpretation of aerial photography, mapped on stable-base copies of 7.5' quad sheet overlays and either manually digitized or scanned. Within the Chesapeake watershed there are 1,336 7.5' quads wholly or partially contained.
  • The EPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program provides both point data sets and GIS databases for its study areas, including the Chesapeake Bay region (the Virginian province) and the rest of North America.

Picture of Chesapeake Bay Executive Council Meeting's progress posters

Since its formation in the 1980s, the Chesapeake Bay Program has made significant accomplishments in its efforts to restore and protect the Bay, becoming a regional, national and international leader in ecosystem science, modeling and restoration partnerships.

Partnership model

Through the Bay Program, leaders and experts from a vast range of groups work across political boundaries to restore the Bay, showing that a cooperative approach is an effective way to achieve environmental results. By working together, our partners promote a more complete understanding of Bay issues and can use limited resources more effectively.

The Bay Program's partnership model has been recognized and emulated worldwide:

  • It served as the prototype for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Estuaries Program.
  • It was highlighted as a model program at the White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation in 2005.
  • It regularly hosts delegations from other large-scale restoration efforts around the United States and internationally, including visitors from Panama, Japan, China, Macau, a joint Israeli-Palestinian delegation and the European Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Environmental results

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its 64,000-square-mile watershed is an enormous undertaking. Four centuries of population growth took their toll on the Bay ecosystem, resulting in polluted waterways and dwindling natural resources. After more than 35 years of restoration efforts, long-term pollution trends from the Bay’s major rivers generally appear to be decreasing. While that's good news, a clean Bay is the ultimate restoration measure. Some signs are positive, but other key indicators are lagging. Our partners are working harder than ever to bring the estuary back to health.

State-of-the-art scientific research

Our science community has pioneered numerous cutting-edge scientific efforts that have advanced ecosystem restoration in the Bay region and throughout the world:

  • The original scientific study that first identified excess nutrients as the main source of pollution in the Bay was conducted by the EPA with strong support from the Bay states. In the early 1990s, the Bay Program worked with EPA and NOAA researchers to establish that airborne nitrogen was a contributor to pollution in the Bay and other estuaries.
  • Partners and other stakeholders use a suite of computer models that are among the most sophisticated, studied and respected in the world. The models provide a comprehensive view of the Chesapeake ecosystem from the depths of the Bay to the upper reaches of the watershed, from the land to the air.

Indicators as a management tool

Establishing numeric goals and deadlines for environmental restoration was unprecedented when the Bay Program first included them in the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. But the practice has now become a Bay Program hallmark and a common way for restoration programs across the country to measure progress.

Landmark cooperative agreements

In 2000, Bay Program partners signed the historic Chesapeake 2000 agreement, which established 102 goals to reduce pollution, restore habitats, protect living resources, promote sound land use practices and engage the public in Bay restoration. At the time, Chesapeake 2000 was considered the most comprehensive large-scale ecosystem restoration blueprint in the nation.

Since Chesapeake 2000, the Bay Program has evolved toward using a mix of short- and long-term goals to improve its accountability and accelerate Bay restoration. In 2014, Bay Program partners signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, a landmark agreement that includes 10 interrelated goals and 31 outcomes that work toward advancing the restoration and protection of the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them. The partnership uses ChesapeakeDecisions as a guide for the Strategy Review System: a structured process that applies adaptive management to our work toward the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

This grant program is currently closed and will reopen in 2023. 


The Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program awards grants of $20,000 to $200,000 to organizations and local governments that work on community-based projects to improve the condition of their local watershed while building stewardship among residents. Small Watershed Grants support local restoration and protection actions that help restore healthy waters, habitats and wildlife in the Chesapeake Bay region.

Since 2000, the Small Watershed Grants Program has provided more than $27 million to support 626 projects throughout the Bay watershed. These grants have been used by recipients to leverage close to $90 million in matching funds, for a total of more than $115 million supporting local community restoration projects.

The Small Watershed Grants Program is administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and primarily funded by the U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. Additional funding partners vary annually, but have included the U.S. Forest Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service. The NFWF produces an annual report of the Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund to summarizes the collective impact of the grant investments made through both the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction and Small Watershed Grant programs.

Small Watershed Grant Projects

Since 2007, The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Small Watershed Grant Program, managed and administrated under cooperative agreement under cooperative agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund, have awarded more than $32 million to support approximately 281 conservation projects that contribute to the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay, while building citizen-based resource stewardship throughout the watershed. These grants have leveraged over $43 million in matching funds.

Download an overview of project specific information for the Small Watershed Grant project grants funded from 2007 through October 2016.

The funded Small Watershed Grant projects can be located through an interactive National Fish and Wildlife Foundation map. NFWF has supported thousands of conservation projects in the United States and abroad since 1985. In total, NFWF’s Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund (which includes both Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction and Small Watershed Grant programs) has awarded more than $125 million to support approximately 964 conservation projects throughout the watershed, all while leveraging a total of $233 million in matching funds.

Environmental computer models are mathematical representations of the real world that estimate environmental conditions, and can be used to simulate ecosystems that are too large or complex for real-world monitoring. Chesapeake Bay model simulations, called scenarios, simulate how various changes or actions could affect the Bay ecosystem, especially water quality, wildlife and aquatic life.

Why is modeling important?

Because the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed are so large and complex, scientists and decision-makers rely on computer models for information about the ecosystem and the impact of efforts to reduce pollution and improve water quality.

Although model simulations are an important part of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort, they are not considered to be perfect forecasts. Rather, simulations are best estimates based on state-of-the-art, extensively peer-reviewed science. Modeling is part of a broader toolkit that includes research and monitoring to gain the highest possible level of accuracy.

What types of models are used for the Chesapeake Bay?

Our partners and other stakeholders use a suite of computer models that are among the most sophisticated, studied and respected in the world. The models provide a comprehensive view of the Chesapeake ecosystem: from the depths of the Bay to the upper reaches of the watershed, from the land to the air. The Chesapeake Community Modeling Program also links to a variety of Bay-related models, data sources and other resources.

Watershed Model

The Watershed Model incorporates information about land use, fertilizer applications, wastewater plant discharges, septic systems, air deposition, farm animal populations, weather and other variables to estimate the amount of nutrients and sediment reaching the Chesapeake Bay and where these pollutants originate.

The Watershed Model divides the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed into more than 2,000 segments delineating political and physical boundaries. Each segment contains information generated by several sub-models:

  • The hydrologic sub-model uses rainfall, evaporation and meteorological data to calculate runoff and sub-surface flow for all land uses, including forest, agricultural and urban lands.
  • The surface and sub-surface flows ultimately drive the non-point source sub-model, which simulates soil erosion and pollutant loads from the land to rivers.
  • The river sub-model routes flow and associated pollutant loads from the land through lakes, rivers and reservoirs to the Chesapeake Bay.

Learn more about the updates made to the Watershed Model in Phase 6.

Estuary Model

The Estuary Model examines the effects that pollution loads generated by the Watershed Model have on water quality. In the Estuary Model, the Chesapeake Bay is represented by more than 57,000 computational cells and is built on two sub-models:

  • The hydrodynamic sub-model simulates the mixing of waters in the Bay and its tidal tributaries.
  • The water quality sub-model calculates the Bay’s biological, chemical and physical dynamics.

Scenario Builder

Scenario Builder can generate simulations of the past, present or future state of the Chesapeake Bay watershed to explore potential impacts of management actions and evaluate alternatives.

Scenario Builder produces inputs for the Watershed Model based on factors from a wide range of land uses and management actions. For example, information such as acres of different crops, numbers of animals and extent of conservation practices is used to generate Watershed Model inputs for agricultural land use types.

Airshed Model

The Airshed Model uses information about nitrogen emissions from power plants, vehicles and other sources to estimate the amount of and location where these pollutants are deposited on the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. That information is fed into the Watershed Model.

Land Change Model

The Land Change Model analyzes and forecasts the effects of urban land use and population on sewer and septic systems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The forecasts are based on:

  • Reported changes from the U.S. Census Bureau in housing, population and migration
  • Land cover trends derived from satellite imagery
  • Sewer service areas
  • County-level population projections
  • Conversion of forests and farmland development is based on a thorough examination of urban development and land conversion trends derived from satellite imagery dating back more than 25 years.

How do models determine land uses and pollution loads?

To accurately simulate the Chesapeake ecosystem, models are built on current and specific uses of land in the watershed, such as forests, farms and development. Land uses are determined using authoritative sources, such as satellite imagery and the USDA Census of Agriculture. Models are further refined by inputting land management features such as cover crops on farm fields and stormwater controls in urban areas.

The types and amounts of pollution that run off a particular land use are based on comprehensive reviews of the latest scientific literature. For example, the pollution loads incorporated into the Watershed Model are based on research from more than 100 academic papers. This comprehensive literature review provides the average pollution loads that various land uses contribute.

Pollution loads are also cross-checked with previous versions of the model and other regional and national models. Pollution loads are further adjusted based on in-stream monitoring data, which increases accuracy for land use and location. Conservation practices, management actions and pollution controls that are implemented in specific places are then entered into the model to simulate reductions from these factors.

How are the Chesapeake Bay models being improved?

The suite of Chesapeake Bay models has been developed during nearly 30 years of collaboration by federal, state, academic and private partners. Developers include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, University of Maryland, Virginia Tech, Penn State University and Chesapeake Research Consortium. Advisers include Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

The Bay Program continues to improve the quality of the data in the models by involving a wide range of partners, stakeholders and experts. Revised versions of the models are regularly shared with partners throughout the Chesapeake Bay community to allow for review, testing and suggestions. Anyone can participate in improving the Bay models, including working with the Bay Program to have credible data and restoration practices incorporated. The models also undergo extensive independent scientific peer review by federal, state and academic scientists, as well as modeling experts.

Over time, the Bay models have improved significantly in precision, scope, complexity and accuracy. For example, the current version of the Watershed Model is currently in Phase 6.

What was improved in Phase 6?

  • The model can better predict the impacts of population growth and climate change and better account for the sediment build-up behind the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland,
  • Ten additional years of water quality monitoring data doubles the amount of real-time data and provides more insight into how pollution loads have changed,
  • High-resolution land cover data allow for a one-by-one meter resolution, providing 900 times the amount of information than was previously available,
  • Additional categories of land use data are included,
  • New inputs from the agricultural community, particularly the poultry industry, and improved and updated information on the application of fertilizer and manure will improve accuracy.
  • Additional best management practices are now credited and incorporated,
  • Improved nutrient input data have been added, and
  • A simulation period that runs over 20 years rather than 10 years allows for finer-scale analysis and planning.
    Learn more about the Phase 6 Modeling tools >

Phase 7 Model Development

Phase 7 Modeling Tools are currently in development and will be available for partnership use by 2027.
Learn more about the Phase 7 Model Development project >

For more information about modeling, download the Chesapeake Bay Environmental Modeling backgrounder.

Why are partnerships important?

The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans numerous political boundaries. As a result, many different agencies and organizations need to work hand in hand to clean up the Bay.

Partnerships achieve better environmental results and save time and money because they:

  • Bring together expertise, authority and resources from a broad range of organizations
  • Encourage involvement among many stakeholders
  • Promote a more complete understanding of Bay issues
  • Consolidate and coordinate the efforts of many groups
  • Allow organizations to complement and learn from each other while avoiding duplication

Who are the Bay Program partners?

The Bay Program partnership includes:

  • 19 federal agencies
  • Nearly 40 state agencies and programs in Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia
  • Approximately 1,800 local governments, represented through the Local Government Advisory Committee
  • More than 20 academic institutions, represented through the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee
  • More than 60 non-governmental organizations, including businesses, non-profits and advocacy groups

Visit our Bay Program Partners page for a full list of Bay Program partners.

How do Bay Program partners work together?

Partnerships form the foundation of the Bay Program. The original 1983 Chesapeake Bay Agreement states that “a cooperative approach is needed among the Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Maryland, the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia, and the District of Columbia to fully address the extent, complexity, and sources of pollutants entering the Bay.”

Bay Program partners come together through the program’s goal teams, workgroups and committees. For example, the Habitat goal team comprises experts on habitat-related issues from throughout the Bay region. These experts evaluate data, share best practices, and report on progress toward health and restoration goals.

Bay Program partners also work together in the field and on the water. The Nontidal Monitoring Water Quality Network is one example of the Bay Program partnership in action on the ground. Through this network, eight state and federal agencies monitor water quality and streamflow at dozens of sites throughout the Bay watershed. Bay Program partners use this data to evaluate their pollution reduction efforts.

The Chesapeake Bay Program is organized into committees, goal implementation teams, workgroups and action teams. Click on the boxes in the organizational chart below to learn more about each part of the Bay Program.

Picture of the Chesapeake Bay watershed

Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) include detailed, specific steps each of the seven Bay watershed jurisdictions will take to meet the pollution reduction goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by 2025. These plans consider such things as ecological restoration and sustainability while allowing for greater transparency and accountability for improved performance.

What are WIPs?

The Chesapeake Bay TMDL requires reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. This federal effort is intended to obtain water quality standards for each of the Bay’s tidal segments, tributaries and embayments listed as impaired under 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. Each watershed jurisdiction has created a Watershed Implementation Plan, often called a WIP, that documents how the jurisdiction will partner with federal and local governments to achieve and maintain water quality standards.

There are three phases of WIPs:

  • Phase I and Phase II WIPs were developed and submitted to EPA in 2010 and 2012, respectively. Both Phase I and Phase II WIPs describe actions and controls to be implemented by 2017 and 2025 to achieve applicable water quality standards.
  • Phase III WIPs will be developed by jurisdictions based on a midpoint assessment of progress and scientific analyses that is currently underway through 2017. Phase III WIPs will provide information on actions the Bay jurisdictions intend to implement between 2019 and 2025 to meet the Bay restoration goals.

Learn more in this fact sheet about the Phase III WIPs.

Key Documents and Tools

Explaining Nutrient and Sediment Loads

Best Management Practice Tools

  • Chesapeake Assessment and Scenario Tool (CAST): CAST is an online version of the Chesapeake Bay Program's Phase 6 Wastershed Model. Using CAST, helps local planners can better understand which best management practices (BMPs) can provide the greatest reduction in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment loads, how much various implementation options might cost, and indicate which practices would be most successful given a geographic area.

  • Quick Reference Guide for Best Management PracticesThis guide provides summarized profiles for each CBP-approved BMP in the Watershed Model. Each reference sheet includes basic general information about a BMP, how it functions within the model, what’s needed for the BMP to be reported for annual progress submissions, as well as links to additional information for readers who want more detailed information about the practice.

  • BMP co-benefit presentation: This presentation is designed to inform WIP developers, local governments and other stakeholders about the co-benefits associated with implementing certain conservation practices. The majority of these practices not only help in meeting your state’s water quality goals under the TMDL, but also can meet other restoration goals not only for the Chesapeake Bay, but for the local waterways in your community.

  • BMP co-benefit fact sheets: The following set of 12 fact sheets describe the co-benefits that are possible when best management practices are selected in a thoughtful manner with site-specific conditions in mind. Each includes contact information for each state for more information.

Local Engagement

Learn how the jurisdictions are working to develop local planning goals and incorporate public input in their Phase III WIPs: Delaware | District of Columbia | Maryland | New York | Pennsylvania | Virginia | West Virginia

Watershed Implementation Plans

Read EPA's evaluations of the Phase III WIPs.


To get involved in the process of developing or instating WIPs, or get answers to state-specific questions, please visit your state's website or contact your WIP lead.

Adaptive management is an ongoing, science-based process through which the Bay Program plans, implements and evaluates its restoration efforts. In simple terms, adaptive management is “learning by doing”—taking action with acknowledged uncertainties, carefully monitoring outcomes, transparently assessing progress and redirecting efforts when necessary.

Why is adaptive management important?

Adaptive management helps the Bay Program become more strategic and coordinated in its complex restoration effort. By adjusting management actions based on past performance, our partners can steadily improve implementation and leverage limited resources, leading to better organizational performance over time.

How does the Bay Program use adaptive management?

The Bay Program is moving toward using adaptive management to coordinate the partnership’s activities at all organizational levels. By carefully developing an adaptive management plan for each of our many goals, we can coordinate and strategically manage all individual restoration activities, as well as the entire collection of efforts.

The process begins when each individual Goal Implementation Team (GIT) develops an adaptive management plan. The plans then move up through the Bay Program’s organizational structure, where they can be integrated and coordinated throughout the partnership.

Adaptive management decision support framework

Each GIT will evaluate and describe its work using the Bay Program’s adaptive management decision framework:

  1. Articulate program goals: Identify the goals the GIT is working towards.
  2. Describe factors influencing goal attainment: Identify and prioritize all factors that influence progress toward a goal. This step can help identify areas for collaboration across GITs.
  3. Assess current management efforts (and gaps): Identify gaps and overlaps in the existing management programs that address the important factors affecting goal attainment.
  4. Develop management strategy: Stakeholders coordinate and implement planning.
  5. Develop monitoring program.
  6. Assess performance: Criteria for success and failure of management efforts should be known when the strategy is developed and the monitoring program is designed. This is the analysis that informs program adaptation and next steps.
  7. Manage adaptively: Based on the monitoring assessment, system models are amended and monitoring strategies are revised to improve program performance.

This information will ultimately provide the basis for coordination, collaboration and development of a program-wide strategy.

Visit ChesapeakeStat to learn more about adaptive management at the Bay Program.

Early History and Formation of the Bay Program

The Chesapeake Bay was the first estuary in the nation targeted by Congress for restoration and protection. In the late 1970s, U.S. Senator Charles “Mac” Mathias (R-Md.) sponsored a Congressionally funded $27 million, five-year study to analyze the Bay’s rapid loss of wildlife and aquatic life. The study, which was published in the early 1980s, identified excess nutrient pollution as the main source of the Bay's degradation. These initial research findings led to the formation of the Chesapeake Bay Program as the means to restore the Bay.

The Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1983

The original Chesapeake Bay Agreement was a simple, one-page pledge signed in 1983. The agreement recognized that a cooperative approach was necessary to address the Bay’s pollution problems. It also established a Chesapeake Bay liaison office in Annapolis, Maryland.

The signatories of the Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1983 became the Chesapeake Executive Council:

  • the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia,
  • the mayor of the District of Columbia,
  • the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and
  • the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

The 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement

The 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement set the first numeric goals to reduce pollution and restore the Bay ecosystem. Among other goals, the agreement aimed to reduce nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Bay by 40 percent by 2000. Agreeing to numeric goals with specific deadlines was unprecedented in 1987, but the practice has become a hallmark of the Bay Program.

In amendments added in 1992, Bay Program partners agreed to attack nutrients at the source: upstream in the Bay's rivers. The Bay Program also began reevaluating its Basinwide Toxics Reduction Strategy to better understand the effects of chemical contaminants on the Bay’s aquatic life.

Chesapeake 2000

In 2000, Bay Program partners signed Chesapeake 2000, a comprehensive agreement that set a clear vision and strategy to guide restoration efforts through 2010. Chesapeake 2000 established 102 goals to reduce pollution, restore habitats, protect living resources, promote sound land use practices and engage the public in Bay restoration. It was also the first Bay agreement to emphasize ecosystem-based fisheries management.

Chesapeake 2000 marked the first time that the Bay’s “headwater states”— Delaware, New York and West Virginia—officially joined the Bay Program’s restoration efforts. The governors of New York and Delaware committed to Chesapeake 2000’s water quality goals through a memorandum of understanding signed in 2000. The governor of West Virginia added his signature in 2002.

Chesapeake 2000’s success was mixed. The agreement laid the groundwork for restoration efforts in the 2000s and beyond. Bay Program partners achieved significant restoration gains in certain areas, such as land conservation, forest buffer restoration and reopening fish passage. However, limited progress was made toward many other health and restoration measures, including oyster abundance and reducing nutrient pollution from agriculture and urban areas.

Chesapeake Bay Executive Order and Two-year Milestones

In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order (EO 13508) that called on the federal government to renew the effort to protect and restore the watershed. That same year, the Chesapeake Executive Council set short-term restoration goals—called two-year milestones—to hasten restoration and increase accountability.

Chesapeake Bay TMDL and Watershed Implementation Plans

In 2010, the EPA established the landmark Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). The Chesapeake Bay TMDL is a federal “pollution diet” that sets limits on the amount of nutrients and sediment that can enter the Bay and its tidal rivers to meet water quality goals.

Each of the seven Bay jurisdictions has created Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) that spells out detailed, specific steps the jurisdiction will take to meet these pollution reductions by 2025. Federal, state and local governments coordinate through the Bay Program partnership to develop the WIPs.

The WIPs will guide local and state Bay restoration efforts through the next decade and beyond.  The Bay jurisdictions will use their two-year milestones to track and assess progress toward completing the restoration actions in their WIPs.

While the TMDL was challenged in 2011, a federal judge upheld the pollution limits in a 2013 ruling, an appeals court upheld the decision in a 2015 decision and the Supreme Court declined to hear the case in 2016. In 2014, Chesapeake Bay Program partners incorporated the TMDL into the goals of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement

In 2009, the Chesapeake Bay Program began drafting a new agreement that would accelerate restoration and align federal directives with state and local goals to create a healthy Bay. Our partners gathered input from citizens, stakeholders, academic institutions, local governments and more to draft an inclusive, goal-oriented document that would address current and emerging environmental concerns. On June 16, 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed, and amended on January 24, 2020.

Signatories included representatives from the entire watershed, committing for the first time the Bay’s headwater states to full partnership in the Bay Program. The agreement established 10 goals and 31 outcomes to restore the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.

Our Goal Implementation Teams developed Management Strategies that outline the steps necessary to achieve the agreement’s vision. These Management Strategies offer insight into the Bay Program partners’ proposals for reaching each outcome by 2025, as well as how we will monitor, assess and report progress toward abundant life, clean waters, engaged communities, conserved lands and climate change resilience. The strategies provide broad, overarching direction and will be further supported by Logic & Action Plans, which illustrate the link between what could impact the partnership’s ability to achieve an outcome and the actions it is taking to achieve the outcome.

In 2017, the Bay Program developed the Strategy Review System (SRS), a structured process that applies adaptive management to the partnership’s work toward the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. This process is further supported and documented through ChesapeakeDecisions.

  • Bay Program History

    Bay Program History

    Since the Chesapeake Bay Program’s formation in 1983, several written agreements have guided our pollution reduction and ecosystem restoration efforts.

  • Adaptive Management

    Adaptive Management

    Adaptive management is an ongoing, science-based process through which we plan, implement and evaluate our restoration efforts.

  • Partnerships


    The Chesapeake Bay Program was built upon the idea of collaboration: bringing together leaders and experts from a vast range of groups to achieve a shared vision of a restored Bay.

  • Funding and Financing

    Funding and Financing

    Funding and financing for Chesapeake Bay restoration comes from numerous federal agencies, state and local governments, non-governmental organizations and private interests.

  • Accomplishments


    Since its formation, the Chesapeake Bay Program has become a regional, national and international leader in ecosystem science, modeling and restoration partnerships.

  • Office Staff

    Office Staff

    The Chesapeake Bay Program office, located in Annapolis, Maryland, is staffed by employees from federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions.

  • Partner Organizations

    Partner Organizations

    The Bay Program partnership engages dozens of agencies and organizations in the Bay restoration effort. Partners include federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions.

  • People

    People (Who's Who)

    The Who's Who contains contact information for anyone associated with the Bay Program. Use the Who's Who to search for an individual by name or by group (i.e., workgroup, goal team, action team or committee).