The draft of the Chesapeake 2000 agreement is now out for public review and comment, so I’d like to make a few of my own about it. To no one’s surprise, I am sure, I think it’s a fine start on the remaining restoration challenges before use.
A lot of press attention has been given to the unresolved issue of a numeric goal to reduce the conversion of open lands to development in the watershed. And the recent Summary Report of the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conser-vation Service on the 1997 National Resource Inventory adds considerable additional data to the debate.
There has also been a great deal of effort put into the new nutrient and sediment goals, which call for the elimination of impairments to the Bay and tidal tributaries by 2010. These represent a real paradigm shift for the Bay Program.
The 40 percent reduction goal set in 1987 for the year 2000 was based on what we thought technology could achieve. The new goal is based on what is needed to restore Bay waters, and will require us to find the new technologies to get us there.
And the new oyster goal to increase their numbers tenfold by 2010 is in the same category. We are not sure if we have the wherewithal to achieve it, but if we set ourselves a bold objective, we can work to find and apply the resources and the know-how.
It is especially encouraging to see the Bay Program’s willingness to press for the recovery of our great filterer, the oyster. Just two or three years ago, no one would have believed such a goal possible. But recent successes with reefs and sanctuaries have emboldened us all.
These three areas have received much of the attention in the press. What I want to point out is a number of other really terrific commitments and goals which have been overshadowed, and may have implications not fully recognized, leading to important deep-seated changes in the way we carry forward our efforts together.
First, the agreement calls for a harvest target for crabs and the means to carry it out by 2001. (That’s next year, folks.) This will be a big step forward in assuring the long-term integrity of the crab in the Bay. At present, we are managing to a level that tries to skirt along the edge of collapse, but not quite fall over it, from year to year, a helluva way to run the most famous fishery on the Bay. A scientifically based harvest target that moves back from that edge but assures the survival of the industry and the species will work to everyone’s benefit.
Why hasn’t this been done before? Don’t even ask. I told you there were some important things in this agreement!
Second, there are new wetlands goals. While no net loss for regulated wetlands and restoring 25,000 acres by 2010 are both laudable goals, the one that could make the biggest long-term difference is the preservation goal. This calls for developing and implementing, with local governments, preservation plans covering 25 percent of each state’s portion of the Bay watershed by 2010. These plans are to reflect local determination of which wetlands are key to preserve for a variety of purposes, and to assure that both those wetlands and their surrounding landscapes are managed to protect the wetland values and functions.
The intent is to engage citizens and local governments, as well as conservancies and landowners in specific efforts to stay ahead of the regulatory battles by taking steps now to preserve the most important wetland resources on both public and private lands.
A related area involves working with local governments on watershed management plans that address stream corridors and adjacent lands, including banks, buffers and watercourses. While we have interacted before on these issues, the Bay Program is now committing to successfully work on these plans with half of the 1,600 local governments in the watershed by 2010. This represents a substantial redirection of resources and efforts at the local level.
One of the provisions I like most calls for a 30 percent increase in public access points to the Bay in the next 10 years. While access is not a problem for many of those who live near the Bay and its rivers, it is a major constraint for outsiders, or for those not wealthy enough to have their own access or live in a community with access.
A great many of the 15 million Bay watershed residents we are calling on for support are among the outsiders. I, myself, have taken years to learn the few places around the Bay where I can launch a canoe. We need to do a better job of providing access and making folks aware and welcome. And we can work with the National Park Service and the new Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Act to achieve our new goal.
Another provision of the new agreement that gets my juices flowing is the goal to return 1,050 brownfield sites in the watershed to productive use by 2010. These are older, industrial sites, predominantly in urban areas. Their redevelopment helps to keep jobs in urban areas and encourages infill over sprawl.
This is a new area for Bay Program involvement; generally those handling brownfields have tended to be the toxic cleanup experts in the state and federal agencies. It will be an interesting mix of “cultures” for the Bay Program to work with these folks; but their success is central to our strategies for sound land use.
Finally, one of the most exciting commitments is almost lost in the rather complex water quality section of the agreement. It is a new toxic goal that reflects a great deal of industry initiative. It calls for continual improvement in striving for a zero release of toxics from point sources, using voluntary pollution prevention measures.
Quite simply, if there is no release, there is no need for a permit. The concept is one that we should seek to apply elsewhere. But for now, it is great to see it here with respect to chemical contaminants.
So those are a few of my favorite things, as Rogers and Hammerstein would say. Don’t limit your reading to the press stories. There are number of hidden gems in this document.
I hope you will take the time to work your own way through the Chesapeake 2000 agreement and to let us and your state or District of Columbia officials know what you think. That’s the only way it will get better!