Monday, May 10, 2021

Bay Restoration Going Along Swimmingly

or drowningly, depending on whether you're a glass full or glass empty kind of person. The Bay Journal (EPAs captive media) has a long article on where the Bay restoration plan is succeeding, and where it's failing: Chesapeake Bay restoration stumbles in race to finish line "One in three promised outcomes lagging badly or in limbo"

“Today we celebrate the most inclusive, collaborative, goal-oriented agreement the Chesapeake Bay watershed has ever seen,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. Leaders of all six Bay states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Chesapeake Bay Commission signed the 21-page document.

Now, with just four years to go before the deadline, a few of the targets set in 2014 have been reached. The Bay’s blue crab fishery, for example, has been put on more sustainable footing, as promised.

 I think that's bullshit. They just got lucky and had a few good years in a row.

Some other commitments also appear on track, such as protecting 2 million more acres of land and adding hundreds of new spots for public boating, fishing and swimming. Oyster reefs have been rebuilt and restocked in three of the 10 Bay tributaries pledged for restoration, and work is under way or in planning for the remainder.

Efforts are lagging or in limbo, though, to achieve at least a third of the outcomes promised in the 2014 agreement.

A recent review by some members of the Chesapeake Bay Program, the federal-state partnership guiding the restoration effort, found that seven of those outcomes are “unlikely to be met without a significant change in course.” Nearly as many others appear uncertain, based on available data and interviews conducted by the Bay Journal. Several efforts are far short of their goals, while others lack sufficient data to tell how much progress, if any, has been made.

The agreement’s checkered track record reflects this sobering fact: Overall, the region is far off pace in doing what’s needed to restore the Bay. Many of those shortcomings will have local impacts, too, in failing to restore streams and rivers and provide crucial wildlife habitat. Efforts to increase forest buffers along streams — critical water quality, as well as fish, birds and amphibians — have largely stalled. Similarly, efforts to restore wetlands, already near historically low levels, are dragging, despite their importance for water quality and habitat. And as the watershed’s human population grows and more land is developed, efforts to maintain what’s left are struggling.

In the 2014 agreement, for example, the states and District vowed to plant a combined 900 miles of riparian buffers every year. Since then, they’ve averaged only about one-fourth of that rate. In 2019, the most recent tally showed just 83 miles of streamside forests were planted — less than 10% of the annual target.

They likewise promised to create or restore 85,000 acres of wetlands. As of 2019, they had added 16,000 acres — less than 20% of the goal.

Those numbers are “screaming that we need help,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative advisory body that has signed every Bay restoration agreement.

“We really should be very concerned about the progress we’re making,” Swanson said, with expanding forests and wetlands.

One of the problems of course, is that there was no overarching plan for restoration, a committee of a hundred people or so sat down to create the plan, and each threw in his own desires as to what would be ideal. The wetland guys (and gals) put in lovely, but entirely unrealistic goals for wetland restoration, the forest folk the same and so on. Not a lot of consideration was put into how the goals would be achieved, just  the thought that EPA would have to coercive power to decree them. It would be a kind of a shame if they actually did achieve them, because then people would have to go find a new set of problems to manage.

There are often particular reasons for each Bay agreement shortfall. But there are some common threads.

On the core issue of restoring the Bay’s water quality, the jurisdictions agreed to have all of the pollution control practices and programs in place by 2025 to meet the nutrient and sediment reduction targets called for in the total maximum daily load, or “pollution diet,” that the EPA developed in 2010.

As of 2019, the most recent year for which data are available, the states and District have reached the overall sediment reduction target. But they have only done enough so far to achieve 39% of the needed nitrogen reductions and 49% of the phosphorus reductions.

James Martin, co-chair of the Bay Program’s water quality goal implementation team, called it “a reasonable conclusion” to deem nutrient reduction outcome unlikely to be met by 2025. That’s especially so, he added, because climate change and an increased flow of pollution from behind the Conowingo Dam will only make it “that much harder to achieve.”

 When in trouble, or in doubt, blame climate change!

So when 2025 arrives, and many of the goals are still unmet, expect the same group of people (or at least their intellectual heirs) to meet and set a similarly unrealistic set of goals!

No comments:

Post a Comment