Chesapeake Bay Partners Sign New Watershed Agreement

On June 16, the Chesapeake Executive Council signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, committing Chesapeake Bay Program partners to a set of interrelated goals to advance the restoration, conservation, and protection of the bay, its tributaries, and the lands that surround them.

Agreement signatories included the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission; and the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This marks the first time that the bay’s headwater states of Delaware, New York, and West Virginia have pledged to work toward restoration goals that reach beyond water quality, making them full partners in the bay program.

The agreement contains 10 goals and 29 measurable, time-bound outcomes that will help create a healthy watershed. The new agreement adds climate resilience and toxics reduction goals. Toxics in the bay and its tributaries include two persistent pollutants, mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls. Efforts also include lowering nutrient and sediment pollution; sustaining blue crabs, oysters, and forage fish; restoring wetlands, underwater grass beds, and other habitats; conserving farmland and forests; and boosting public access to and education about the bay and its tributaries.

Citizens and stakeholders submitted thousands of comments during two public review periods. Moving forward, bay program partners will collaborate with stakeholders to achieve the agreement’s goals and outcomes.

The Chesapeake Bay Federal Leadership Committee recently released a progress and action plan report. According to the report, practices implemented between 2009 and 2013 eventually will reduce nitrogen loading to the bay by 25%, phosphorus loading by 27%, and sediment loading by 32%. Nitrogen and sediment reductions are slightly ahead of expectations while phosphorus reductions are somewhat behind. A greater percentage of the bay — 31%, up from 29% —also is meeting water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, turbidity, the number of underwater bay grasses, and chlorophyll A. By 2025, the bay should meet 60% of water quality standards.

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