Sunday, May 19, 2024

Are We Ready For a New Bay Diet Plan?

WTIF, Could there be a reset of Chesapeake Bay restoration goals in 2025? "Some previous goals won't be met"

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, along with the federal government entered into an agreement in 1983 to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. The states of Delaware, New York and West Virginia joined the partnership years later. 

During the past 41 years, strategies and plans have been implemented to reduce pollution and restore the health of the Bay. Some have been successful while others have fallen short of their goals. Next year – 2025 – was set as a deadline to meet several of those goals in the restoration plans.

It has the states and the federal government thinking about what comes next.

The pollution in the form of nutrients came from wastewater, agricultural practices and storm water runoffs from sources like parking lots, streets and chemicals on lawns. 

Harry Campbell, Director of Science Policy and Advocacy with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Pennsylvania, was on The Spark Wednesday and talked about the goals for Pennsylvania,”We agreed to a reduction of pollution in the form of nitrogen and phosphorus and sediment of 40%, based on baseline numbers in the from the early 1980s, based on monitoring and things of that nature. So that was one of the primary goals. And then the secondary goals were more protection and management activities around those living resources, like the striped bass, like the oysters, like the crabs, so as to help provide a a more stable and healthy population for reproduction and growth of the economy and in the living resource.”

Some have suggested there has been too much attention to nutrients running into local streams, creeks and rivers and eventually into the Bay.

Campbell indicated that maybe the numbers have gotten too much of the focus during the Bay clean-up,” One of the things that has occurred over the course of time during the these efforts is that we’ve kind of started to fixate on bean counting. And what I mean by that is how much of this, how much of that, how much did we do? An acre of that. How many linear feet of that and lost sight of the outcomes. So one of the five pillars we have are to focus on the outcomes, meaning the not just did we reduce a pound of nitrogen based on what a computer model tells us or based on how much linear feet of this or that we’ve installed, but focusing on the outcome in terms of like, what is the living resource response? Did it improve trout habitat? Did it create a situation where we have more young of the year, striped bass or other types of living resource responses? Then of course we have to promote innovation and focus in on people, and do a number of other things, like even building those partnerships, but by looking at the outcome instead of the widget or the bean counting, we can then really start to measure and I think improve and focus in on the things and the places and practices that improve water quality, but also the ecosystem at large.”

I believe too much attention has been paid to nutrients as a path to curing the hypoxia/anoxia issues in the deep channels of the main bay. Nutrients have been reduced, and a little improvement may have been seen in deep hypoxia, but by and large those are not the problems that most people encounter or are affected by. The bay's physical system, with fresh water coming in at the upper end and overriding saltier water coming in from the bottom, is a natural set up for bottom hypoxia. Most of the easy nutrient reduction has been achieved, and the progress has been marginal at best. To pursue more will be to face higher costs with diminishing returns.

It’s been suggested that more attention to making sure local streams, creeks and rivers are clean and healthy would be more a more tangible result for those who live in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.

I agree, but wonder what the specifics would be. Clearly, they would vary from place to place. In some places, storm water and sediment control would yield the best results for the least cost, in others, in might be sewage and nutrients, in others, toxic substances.

Another discussion has centered on making climate change a priority over the Bay restoration. Campbell said the two are closely linked, ”The effort to try to mitigate climate change, as well as save the Bay and our local rivers and streams and watersheds. You can’t separate the two. The climate change and the responses to it, regardless of what you believe are the causes there, it’s causing and contributing and increasing the amount of runoff and the pollution that enters our local rivers and streams in the Chesapeake Bay. By focusing in on the types of practices that build that resiliency, tree plantings, cover crops on our agricultural areas, forested riparian buffers and tree canopy in our suburban and urban areas. Not only does that actually help mitigate the impacts of climate change, but simultaneously is improving our local rivers and streams, as well as the Chesapeake Bay as well. It’s all tied together.”

I strongly disagree. Climate change is the basket into which activists jam their preferred solutions, regardless of whether the problems the purport to solve. Tree guys want more trees, fish guys want more fish, and extremists want to ban cars and fossil fuels, even though their impact on the Bay is likely to be quite minor. Fix the bad spots first, and the OK spots will improve on their own.

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