We need a healthy Ch­e­sa­peake Bay

The Washington Post - - CAPITAL BUSINESS -

After we have in­vested al­most $20 bil­lion to clean up the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, it’s dis­may­ing that the bay’s health is de­clin­ing for the first time in a decade [“Rainy year de­grades health of Ch­e­sa­peake Bay,” Metro, Jan. 8].

Runoff from farms and de­vel­op­ment — wash­ing ni­tro­gen, phos­pho­rus, sed­i­ment and other chem­i­cals into the bay — is one of the prin­ci­pal cul­prits. Yet if, as it has pro­posed, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency cuts Clean Wa­ter Act pro­tec­tions to wet­lands and small streams, which nat­u­rally fil­ter runoff pol­lu­tion, the bay’s health will suf­fer. On the East­ern Shore alone, for ex­am­ple, more than 34,000 acres of wet­lands called Del­marva pot­holes could lose fed­eral pro­tec­tions, open­ing them up to agri­cul­tural con­ver­sion or other de­vel­op­ment, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by the En­vi­ron­men­tal In­tegrity Project.

To con­tinue to make progress clean­ing up the bay and other wa­ter­ways, the EPA must main­tain the Clean Wa­ter Act’s long-stand­ing pro­tec­tions for wet­lands and streams.

Ed Hop­kins, Wash­ing­ton

I think it is

safe to say that the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay non­profit com­mu­nity took a col­lec­tive sigh of re­lief after read­ing the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion’s State of the Bay re­port. While a D-plus is not some­thing that we are striv­ing for, nor are happy about, the re­al­ity is that we all thought it might be much worse.

Last year, this re­gion saw record rain­fall, with Wash­ing­ton and other cities in the water­shed record­ing their wettest years on record. Penn­syl­va­nia re­ceived so much rain that the Conowingo Dam’s gates were opened mul­ti­ple times, re­leas­ing in­cred­i­ble amounts of wa­ter filled with de­bris and nu­tri­ent and sed­i­ment pol­lu­tion into the bay. How­ever, de­spite all of this, the bay’s health score dropped by only one point. This is what we have been hop­ing for — that the bay would not only be re­stored but be re­silient, too. This is es­pe­cially im­por­tant as our re­gion ex­pe­ri­ences an in­crease in in­ten­sity and fre­quency of ma­jor storms be­cause of cli­mate change.

This re­port demon­strates that the work we are do­ing for the Ch­e­sa­peake is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence and that now is not the time to slow down.

Chanté Cole­man, An­napo­lis The writer is di­rec­tor of the Choose Clean Wa­ter Coali­tion.

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