Sunday, June 23, 2024

Well, You Can Always Be a Bad Example

The Lens, Could the Mississippi River benefit from Chesapeake Bay’s strategy to improve water quality?

As environmental groups and policy analysts in the Mississippi River basin seek solutions to shrink a massive “dead zone” that forms off the coast of Louisiana each year, they have looked to a regional clean-up program in the Chesapeake Bay as a model.

A key component of that effort, known as the Chesapeake Bay Program, is regulation.

For nearly 15 years, it’s included a legally enforceable, multi-state pollution quota — one of a select few in the nation. This “total maximum daily load” aims to reduce the amount of nutrients, like phosphorus and nitrogen, that run off into the Bay’s waters.

Too much of chemicals that derive from these elements, commonly used to grow crops and fertilize lawns, can cause algae blooms and die-offs that rob waters of oxygen and suffocate aquatic life.

But the Bay program’s scientific advisors recently noted the strategy is imperfect.

After two missed deadlines to reduce nutrient runoff, and a third looming, Mid-Atlantic state and federal officials are reevaluating their options. . . .

So what would you learn from a program that spent the $25 Billion or so (and likely more associated costs), and achieved about 25% of its goals?  I think you'd chose a different path, almost any other.

On the other hand, the Bay Diet did succeed in the only way that matters in government. It fed a huge bureaucracy of federal, state and local government officials, who also funded a small army of academics and NGOs, who desperately need some successor program to continue the waterfall of money. 

I don't know the answer for the Mississippi, but it's a much larger, complicated system than the Bay, and I know it won't be easy. If you learn one thing from the Bay Program, it should be not to imitate it.

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