Concerned about a lack of progress in reducing pollution and improving water quality, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sent the letter below on Dec. 10 to the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Executive Council, which is preparing for its annual meeting on Jan. 10 at Mount Vernon, VA. The Executive Council—composed of Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, EPA Administrator Michael O. Leavitt, District of Columbia Mayor Anthony A. Williams and Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus—meets annually to set policy for Bay restoration efforts throughout watershed.

The Honorable Mark R. Warner
Governor of Virginia
The State Capitol
Richmond, VA 23219

Dear Governor Warner:

In 1984, President Ronald Reagan called the Chesapeake Bay a “national treasure” and committed our nation to the “long necessary effort” to restore it.

Twenty years later, the record is littered with deadlines missed and actions not taken. Almost halfway from the signing of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement to the court-mandated 2010 deadline to remove the Chesapeake Bay from the EPA’s “dirty waters” list, there has been no significant improvement in water quality in the Bay. Instead, we have experienced prolonged dead zones, harmful algal blooms, fish kills, crab jubilees and more fish consumption advisories.

Seeing a national treasure in this polluted state is a tragedy.

Last year, the Executive Council announced an initiative to make the Chesapeake Bay a national priority. After that meeting, in a Washington Post article, “Governors’ Bay Strategy Counting on Federal Funds,” reporter Nelson Hernandez wrote:

The governors of Virginia and Maryland announced a plan yesterday to make restoration of the Chesapeake Bay an issue of “national importance,” calling on Washington to undertake the same kind of role it played in the massive effort to save the Florida Everglades. (Dec. 10, 2003)

Governor Ehrlich said the federal government is the solution:

“We need a large, permanent federal funding source, bottom line,” said Ehrlich, who was optimistic about the chances of raising the needed money. “When all the states represented come on the stage together, that’s a lot of political muscle,” he said. (Washington Post, Dec. 10, 2003)

You committed to action:

“The reality is, under these fiscal restraints, we cannot meet our goals unless we take dramatic new action,” said Warner, a Democrat, who is chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council. “The idea of setting ambitious goals and letting them pass us by has to become a thing of the past.” (Sunpapers, Dec. 10, 2003)

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Secretary McGinty, representing Pennsylvania Governor Rendell, recognized “there is no time to waste,” and EPA Administrator Leavitt said “This rapid pace must continue…”

The results to date—ambitious goals unfulfilled. There is no Everglades-scale effort or permanent funding source, and no significant increase in federal funding.

Instead, there has been a loss to watershed jurisdictions of $22 million in federal State Revolving Loan Funds, which are used to pay for infrastructure improvements such as wastewater treatment plant upgrades.

The 2002 deadline for the completion and implementation of the states’ tributary strategies, which are to detail the “on-the-ground” actions needed to reduce pollution flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, is still unmet. At the last Executive Council meeting in 2003, you promised completion in April 2004.

When you meet with the other Executive Council members next month at a national monument to our nation’s first president, you have the opportunity to show leadership and take meaningful actions. The Executive Council has the opportunity to bring dramatic improvement to the Bay’s health. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on the council to:

  • By the Jan. 10 meeting, complete the tributary strategies, with clear timetables, monitoring requirements and accountability;
  • Adopt the attached resolution, committing to:
    • – Create the Chesapeake Bay Finance Authority within six months;
    • – Organize a presidential summit on the Chesapeake Bay this spring, bringing together the president, key Congressional leaders, the Bay watershed Congressional delegation and the region’s governors to underscore the need for $1 billion in federal funding in next year’s budget;
    • – Identify $250 million in new state funding for 2005, from all signatory states and the District of Columbia, as the state match for the $1 billion federal request;

  • Follow Maryland’s lead—Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C. must provide funding to install available, affordable technology to reduce nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants; and
  • Ensure that existing laws, including the Clean Water Act, are fully enforced.

Not taking action to save the Chesapeake Bay would represent nothing less than a colossal failure to rescue a national treasure.

A road map for success exists. It can be implemented and it enjoys broad public support. You have not only the authority but also the responsibility to act.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation calls on you to do just that when you meet at Mount Vernon on Jan., 10, 2005.


William C. Baker
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation