The Bay Journal's four-part series, The Bay’s Pollution Diet: Is it Working?, highlighted many aspects of the state of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.
We agree that we are witnesses to incredible progress, including the resurgence of Bay grasses and improvements in water quality. We also agree that progress has been slower than anticipated. There are a few key considerations, though, that were not highlighted in the series.
We must remember that the Bay took centuries to become impaired, and it will take longer than a few years of work to restore it.
But it is cleaner, and much of this progress is due to the hard work of the nonprofit community. The more than 230 member organizations of the Choose Clean Water Coalition have played a major role in getting the restoration effort where it is today. From national nonprofits to local watershed groups, this community has installed countless on-the-ground restoration projects that protect local water quality, promote healthy communities and help the states meet their pollution reduction goals.
Projects like rain gardens and forest buffers are installed on a daily basis thanks to nonprofits combining their own fundraising efforts with the limited grant resources available. Our watershed’s nonprofit community understands the connection between continued funding and progress for the Chesapeake.
They are also one of the reasons why this work continues to receive funding at all.
We cannot overlook the dramatic shift that occurred with the 2016 election. As a reminder, the Trump administration attempted to eliminate funding for the restoration effort.
Our members fought hard alongside our Congressional delegation to ensure $73 million in crucial funding continued to reach the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program, state and local governments, and nonprofit organizations.
What if we did not have to focus our resources to battle the new administration and keep the cleanup from shutting down? We could have spent the last two years working to increase, rather than preserve Bay funding; focused on getting more targeted funding in Pennsylvania; and taken other actions to accelerate our progress. This attempted reversal must be appreciated for the impact it had on the restoration effort, and it is likely to continue.
What do we do now?
If anything, the last two years have shown us that elections matter. Voting matters. The coalition and its members have fought hard to keep the Chesapeake Bay cleanup a bipartisan effort, and everyone needs to feel empowered to voice their opinions and concerns around the progress we are making.
Write to your congressperson or state or local legislator, sign a petition, or voice your opinion in person. We will continue to see progress if we work together toward our common goal: clean water.