Bay Journal readers are well aware of the court-imposed 2010 deadline for getting the Bay and its tributary rivers off the federal Clean Water Act’s “dirty waters” list. Most of us applaud this goal and agree that achieving it will require strong leadership, immediate action and plenty of funding.
Sadly, a lot of government bureaucrats—even some in the environmental community—are predicting that the goal cannot be met by the end of 2010. To them, we say, “Oh ye of little faith!”
There is a difference between cannot and will not. And, the choice to meet the 2010 goal is ours to make.
We urge the discouraged to become re-energized and the complacent to become dissatisfied. The status quo does not have to be. Funding and programs can still be in place by the deadline if we refuse to give up.
EPA Administrator Steven Johnson, President Bush’s chief environmental bureaucrat, could do more than any other government employee to bring success to the Chesapeake Bay. Instead, he has predicted failure—a self-fulfilling prophecy.
With three and a half years to go, Johnson and others have thrown in the towel and are already talking about a new agreement—a new set of promises and commitments to placate the public. To this, we say, “Horse manure!” or a not-so-polite derivative thereof.
If we do give up, one more agreement will have gone unfulfilled. This culture of failure, which has pervaded the bureaucracy for more than 20 years, will be the death knell of the Chesapeake Bay.
It is time to change.
Fortunately, there have been some outstanding recent successes. Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania have had a laser-like focus on improving sewage treatment plants. Ongoing advocacy for specific legislative actions has resulted in nearly $2 billion of new money allocated to fund advanced and proven technology. Soon, the Chesapeake Bay states will boast the best sewage treatment of any region in the nation—far from perfect, but still greatly improved.
Much of our focus has now turned to the more difficult job of controlling nonpoint source pollution. In 2004, the Chesapeake Bay Commission reported that five of the six most cost-effective strategies to improve the region’s water quality could be found in agricultural best management practices. Central to implementing them is providing farmers with technical and financial assistance. Thousands of farmers have begun to make real progress, demonstrating that if these practices were brought up to scale, vast water quality improvements would result.
The states have the potential to do much more. Hundreds of millions of new dollars must be put to work. Nearly half a billion dollars resulting from CBF-endorsed legislation in Pennsylvania is under consideration. In Maryland, forces are gathering to revive the debate on the Green Fund. In Virginia, the CBF and our partners will push for dedicated funding to implement best agricultural conservation practices.
And, at the federal level, the Farm Bill has a shot at delivering absent federal dollars, providing meaningful support to the region’s farmers and making real strides toward water quality goals.
The bottom line is this: A year from now, we can be within striking distance of the 2010 goal.
There is still time to snatch victory from the sorry jaws of defeat.