Nutrient limits for individual farms. Better environmental enforcement. More technical assistance for farmers. An honest discussion about population. Greener development.Sounds innocent so far, but let's take a look at some of their specific recommendations:
Those were among the ideas proposed by a panel of Bay experts on Tuesday about policy changes that could lead to greater improvements for the Chesapeake, where three decades of work — and billions of dollars — has produced only slow progress in improving water quality and forging a more sustainable watershed.
“The Chesapeake Bay Summit: Charting a Course” was presented by Maryland Public Television and broadcast on numerous other public television stations throughout the watershed to offer alternative solutions.
Obstacle: Agricultural nutrient management requires substantial unsustainable public subsidies and has weak accountability.Can you imagine the paperwork required for individual farms to measure and account for their nutrient fluxes? It would make filing taxes seem like a minor detail.
Alternative: Require farms to operate under nutrient caps and make subsidies conditional on attainment of the caps.
Donald Boesch, president of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, said current efforts to reduce nutrient runoff from farms are costly and likely unsustainable. He instead called for a “performance based” approach to managing agricultural nutrients in which farmers would have targets established for individual farms.
Obstacles: Not enough enforcement of all nutrient pollution regulations.I wonder what uniforms the Bay cops will have, to go with their automatic weapons?
Alternative: Greater commitment by government to undertake enforcement.
Rena Steinzor, president of the Center for Progressive Reform, said state and federal agencies need to do a better job of enforcing existing regulations to make sure efforts stay on track. For instance, she said, the EPA has said it would impose consequences on states if they don’t meet nutrient and sediment goals imposed in the Bay “pollution diet.” “That needs to happen, and that needs to happen before we fail,” she said.
Obstacle: Cheap energy allows sprawling development and a large human footprint on the landscape.Make energy more expensive and less available is always a goal of choice with these folk. And finally, the inner Pol Pot starts to emerge:
Alternative: Aggressive commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in all land-use, zoning and transportation decisions.
Boesch said development plans should be required to show how the project would reduce, rather than increase, greenhouse gas emissions to help meet state and national goals, especially when it relates to transportation. “If we’re going to have to reduce our emissions 50, 75 percent, why in the world would we grow and develop in ways that require automobiles to transport people?” he asked.
Obstacle: Population growth and development.I wonder how they propose to decide who will be allowed to live under the new regime?
Alternative: Set population targets within the carrying capacity of the Bay.
Wheeler said the region ultimately needs a conversation about the carrying capacity of the ecosystem — the number of people the watershed could support and still have a healthy Bay. “The reason that we’ve spent $15 billion to basically hold the ground on the Chesapeake Bay is because we’ve been paddling against the tide of population growth,” he said.
“If we’re going to make the progress to actually restore the Bay, we have to figure out how to do that. Growing smartly, more compactly — those help, but if we keep adding people, we’re still going to overwhelm it in the end. Now, we have to talk about what is an ideal target population here.”