Mid-Atlantic
(AP Photo/Brian Witte). (Brian Witte/AP)

MD - Could 2022 prove a turning point for the Chesapeake Bay? | COMMENTARY

On the surface, the future of the Chesapeake Bay appears about as murky and dark as deep water. The latest report released last week by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation observes that it’s unlikely that pollution limits agreed to by watershed states and supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are going to be met by a 2025 deadline.

On the surface, the future of the Chesapeake Bay appears about as murky and dark as deep water. The latest report released last week by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation observes that it’s unlikely that pollution limits agreed to by watershed states and supervised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are going to be met by a 2025 deadline. And it’s not like this is a shock. Various indicators from the CBF’s annual report card on the Chesapeake’s health (a “C” last year for tributaries, a ho-hum “B-minus” for the watershed overall) to the size and staying power of the “dead zone,” the oxygen-deprived area that forms from excess algae growth (it was both bigger and longer lasting in 2021 than the year before), were disappointing. Yet below the surface like a pearl-bearing oyster buried in the silt, there is something of greater value to be gleaned from current events. There is, in short, an extraordinary opportunity.

Experts have long understood what’s ailing the nation’s largest estuary. To quote Charlton Heston in the 1973 film “Soylent Green,” it is people. Human activities in the six-state watershed from mining to farming, from home construction to heavy industry, from road construction to sewage treatment spew pollution into the water, much of it in the form of excess nutrients. Scientists also know the cure. More environmentally sensitive land use practices that preserve green space and protect streams and rivers, for example, would be high on that list. But many of these solutions are costly and a tough sell. So how do you pay for them and how do you convince people to support them, particularly those who don’t spend weekends on a sailboat in the Choptank River or buy and sell waterfront estates or even order a dozen steamed from their local crab house? Like people living in Pennsylvania, source of more than half the Bay’s freshwater flow, but populated by a lot of folks who wouldn’t know a sook from a jimmy?

Eureka.

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