On June 16, Maryland Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes joined former Maryland Sen. Mac Mathias, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, officials from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation on an aerial tour of the Chesapeake Bay to help mark the 30th anniversary tour of the Chesapeake Bay by Senator Mathias. The 450-mile boat tour by Senator Mathias highlighted the problems facing the Bay and resulted in a major federal commitment to “Save the Bay.”
What follows are excerpts of his remarks in Yorktown, VA, and Kent Island, MD, marking that occasion and highlighting the challenges we face to improve the Bay’s health and vitality in the future:
“A great deal of effort went into establishing the Chesapeake Bay partnership between the federal, state and local governments and the private sector and in initiatives to restore the Bay. We should all take great pride in what has been accomplished over the past 20 years since the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement was signed.
“But looking ahead, we face some tremendous challenges that will require an even greater commitment on the part of all the participants in the Bay Program and the citizens in the watershed if we are to achieve the goal of restoring the Bay to health.
“Nitrogen pollution from all sources will have to be further reduced, thousands of acres of watershed property must be preserved, significant efforts must be made to restore living resources, and buffer zones to protect rivers and streams need to be created.
“Earlier this year, the Chesapeake Bay Commission released a report which found that, in order to meet the goals established in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, the local, state and federal governments must invest nearly $19 billion over the course of the next seven years. Resources are only available to cover about $6 billion—leaving a gap of nearly $13 billion.
“We have been working closely with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and our colleagues in the Congress in an effort to bring the necessary federal resources to bear to help address these problems and fill the gap.
“This past year, Fiscal 2003, the Congress appropriated more than $120 million in direct federal assistance for Chesapeake Bay programs—everything from the oyster recovery program to the restoration of Poplar Island—and this figure does not include more than $112 million in federal sewage treatment construction funds, more than $60 million in federal agricultural conservation assistance to farmers to reduce non-point source runoff, and millions of dollars in federal land preservation funds.
“Recently, I introduced a package of five legislative measures in the Senate, what I called a ‘Blueprint for the Bay’s Future,’ aimed at reducing nitrogen pollution from sewage treatment plants, strengthening environmental education and stewardship, restoring Bay fishery resources, improving forestry management and enhancing the work of the Army Corps of Engineers.
“And we are now pressing the Secretary of Agriculture to approve $100 million in conservation funding made available under the recently passed Farm Bill for a Nutrient Reduction Pilot Program in the Bay watershed to encourage farmers to try new, innovative ways to reduce fertilizer use.
“We are also working closely with Sen. Jim Jeffords and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on an initiative to address stormwater runoff from highways and roads as part of the surface transportation bill that must be reauthorized this year.
“These are just a few of the activities we have under way to support the Bay restoration effort.
“I want to conclude with the following observations: First, no one should underestimate what has been achieved so far and how difficult it was to bring about. We have in place a structure that is unparalleled and serves as a model for other restoration efforts around the country and around the world.
“Second, it took a long time to degrade the Bay and it is going to take a long time to clean it up. Restoring the Bay is going to require a sustained commitment and the results may not be immediately evident.
“Third, the Chesapeake’s future depends on choices made by each one of us—in the public sector and private sectors and at the individual level.
“Finally, the change from our current wasteful or harmful practices—what we do everyday in terms of our automobile use, fertilizer and pesticide use, garbage generation, etc.—to a sustainable future will only come as a result of a commitment at an individual level. There is a real need for a new ethic and sense of a stewardship on behalf of the Bay and the environment.
“Closing the $13 billion gap in resources necessary to restore the Bay over the next seven years is going to require all parties in the public sector—local, state and federal—to make hard choices. We have come a long way in the past 30 years and I am confident that, if we stay the course, and make the right choices—the health and productivity of the Bay can be restored.”