Work is progressing on a new Chesapeake Bay Agreement, but at Bay Journal press time it was unclear exactly when it would be available for public comment — or be signed.
With a number of issues still outstanding, Bay Program officials were hoping that a draft agreement would be available for a 30-day public review by mid-October.
It’s unclear whether the agreement will still be signed in December as anticipated. Virginians will elect a new governor in November, and state Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech said officials have reservations about signing an agreement with obligations for the next governor. “That has been a concern,” he told members of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a legislative advisory panel, during a briefing on the agreement at its September meeting.
Any new agreement would be the first since Chesapeake 2000 was signed 13 years ago, and the fourth in the 30-year history of the state-federal Bay Program. The new agreement, like earlier ones, will be voluntary, unlike the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load adopted in 2010, which set enforceable limits on the amount on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Bay. But it would deal with a broader host of issues, such as fisheries, habitats and land protection.
The agreement would be signed by the governors of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Delaware and West Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the administrator of the EPA; and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. It would the first agreement to include the headwater states of New York, Delaware and West Virginia.
State and federal officials are continuing to hammer out various details, some large, some small. Rather than making any reference to “climate change,” the agreement will only refer to “changing environmental conditions.” Details on how the agreement will handle other issues, such as land use, citizen stewardship, toxics and others remain in flux.
Check the Bay Program’s website www.chesapeakebay.net for the draft agreement and updates during the public comment period.