EPA Regional Administrator Donald Welsh recently designated seven municipalities in the Bay region as 2003 Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities.

Gold winners are: Annapolis, MD; James County, VA; Fauquier County, VA; Lexington, Va; and Adams County, PA. Silver winners are: Highland Beach, MD, and Howard County, MD.

“Local governments are vital to achieving Bay restoration goals. By promoting Bay-friendly activities, from planting streamside buffers to preserving open space, local governments can help us bring back the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers,” Welsh said.

Launched in 1997, the Bay Partner Community program recognizes local governments for their commitment to protecting and restoring the Bay and its rivers. Communities are evaluated on their completion of a set of benchmarks that aim to protect or restore their part of the watershed. Selection is based on the municipality’s population and the percentage of benchmarks met in four categories: improving water quality, promoting sound land use, protecting and restoring living resources and habitat, and engaging the community.

More than 90 communities in the watershed are recognized as Chesapeake Bay Partner Communities. The awards are sponsored by the Chesapeake Bay Program and its Local Government Advisory Committee.