New Bay Agreement likely to be delayed until early next year
A new Chesapeake Bay Agreement likely won’t be signed until next spring under a new time frame being considered by the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program.
The revised time frame, which was reviewed by the Bay Program’s Management Board on Wednesday, calls for a draft agreement to be released for public review in December, rather than signing off on a final agreement as originally planned.
Under the proposed change, the comment period would be expected to last 45 – 60 days, after which public input will be reviewed and final changes made to the draft. The agreement would then be ready to be signed by the Chesapeake Executive Council, which is expected to meet in the spring. A final decision on the proposed new time frame is expected in mid-November.
Officials had hoped to complete the new agreement — which sets forth an array of goals to protect and restore the Bay and its watershed — by the end of the year. But that schedule, which was already tight, fell further behind as a result of the federal government shutdown.
The delay would also resolve another issue. Some Virginia officials had expressed concern about having the agreement signed by an outgoing governor. Now, the agreement can be signed by the winner of the November gubernatorial election.
The delay would also allow for more extensive public comment. Previously, officials had anticipated only a 30-day comment period.
The agreement would be the first new guiding document for the state-federal Bay partnership since Chesapeake 2000 was signed 13 years ago, and the fourth in the 30-year history of the Bay Program.
The new agreement, like earlier ones, will be voluntary, unlike the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load adopted at the end of 2010, which set enforceable limits on the amount on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that enter the Bay. But it will deal with a broader host of issues, such as fisheries, habitats and land protection.
The agreement would be signed by the the Chesapeake Executive Council, which will be expanded to include 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 the first Bay agreement to include the headwater states of New York, Delaware and West Virginia.
By submitting a comment, you are consenting to these Rules of Conduct. Thank you for your civil participation. Please note: reader comments do not represent the position of Chesapeake Media Service.
Comments are now closed for this article. Comments are accepted for 60 days after publication.