Development of a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is moving into the final phase, as jurisdictions were to submit their input regarding the latest draft of the document in December. Officials hope to have a revised agreement that will go out for 45 days of public comment in late January or early February.

The agreement, the fourth in the 30-year history of the state-federal Bay Program partnership, is supposed to provide guidance for the restoration of the Bay and its watershed — and go beyond the nutrient reductions mandated under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

But to many, the emerging agreement seems more like the Bay Program is on autopilot. Instead of formulating a vision for the future, it is reluctant to commit to any new initiatives as many jurisdictions that participate in the program are feeling overwhelmed by their obligations under the TMDL. As a result, many of the goals described in the drafts would accomplish little more than what would happen if various activities continued at the same pace.

“Currently, it appears the goals and outcomes of the agreement are determined by the ‘lowest common denominator’ — as opposed to being aspirational and forward looking — one of the problems that has plagued the partnership in the past,” the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said in a letter to the Executive Council.

The lowest common denominator, unfortunately, seems pretty low given that the last draft of the document omitted any reference to climate change — even though scientists warn it could have profound impacts in the future of the Bay’s restoration. And all goals related to toxics — even studying them — have been struck despite mounting evidence of harm to fish in tributaries throughout the watershed from chemical contaminants. It’s even unclear that those signing the agreement will be bound by its goals.

The extent to which that changes in the final agreement may hinge on public comment. At December’s Executive Council meeting, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, the council’s new chair, and Deputy EPA Administrator Bob Perciasepe emphasized that the council would consider public comment on those and other issues.

In fact, they’re anticipating — maybe hoping — for it. “We would expect to get plenty of comment on that,” Perciasepe said.

We’ll cover the draft submitted for public comment when we return after our winter break with our March issue. In the meantime, check for updates on our website, www.bayjournal.com

Bay journeys await you

As we take our break, we leave you with the latest issue of Bay Journeys, which is enclosed with this issue. Our quarterly publication is filled with all sorts of ideas about things you can do during the winter.

From exploring the Potomac River from George Washington’s perspective, to exploring the Virginia’s Eastern Shore, this issue is packed with ideas to lure you outdoors, including tips on some winter birding hot spots. And, for those who want to keep a bit warmer, we also have articles about visiting caves in the Shenandoah and learning about the War of 1812 — in museums.

Whether indoors or out, let Bay Journeys be your guide to experiencing the Chesapeake region.

New advertising contact

I’m pleased to announce the addition of Barbara Stratton as our new advertising representative. Barbara, who has a background in advertising, as well as work with nonprofits — and once operated a green housekeeping business — will be working to build our advertising base in both Bay Journal and Bay Journeys.

Advertising in our publications is a way to reach a targeted audience, as well as a chance for businesses and organizations to support Bay Journal. While we expect advertising revenues to be modest, it nonetheless can help us accomplish our ongoing goals of expanding coverage, improving our publications and website, and reaching new audiences.

Those interested in advertising with us can contact Barbara at 410-488-0490 or bstratton@bayjournal.com.