Chesapeake Bay Bridge, MD

The effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, seen here at Maryland’s Bay crossing, has been a long and challenging task at the local, state and federal levels. 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency serves a vital role as we coordinate the efforts of federal, state and local partners to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers and streams that flow into it from six states and the District of Columbia.

We take that responsibility seriously. Along with our partners, we’re working to accelerate the pace of restoration and close the gap in reaching the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.

When EPA Administrator Michael Regan addressed Bay watershed leaders in June, he pledged that this is a new day at the EPA. President Biden’s budget, for example, proposes a record amount of EPA financial support for programs and actions to clean up the land and waters that impact Bay health.

The president’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2022 would deliver $90.5 million for the Bay Program — a $3 million increase over current funding. The bulk of the funding is provided to our state partners to further their progress in improving local waters and the Bay.

In addition to providing needed technical assistance, the EPA is tracking and reporting progress and coordinating partnership efforts through the Bay Program Office.

We’ve also been evaluating cleanup plans from the watershed states and the District of Columbia, and we’re looking forward to reviewing a revised plan to be submitted by Pennsylvania by the end of this year to meet its 2025 targets.

We’re committed to this mission, and we’re committed to building on the strong, productive relationships with our state, local and tribal partners — who know their communities better than the federal government ever could.

The EPA will continue to adapt to the needs of our partners to support the 2025 restoration goals and fulfill our shared vision of protecting the Chesapeake Bay for generations to come, along with the people and the economies that rely on its bounty and vitality.

We know that the health of the Bay and the welfare of the 18 million people who live in the watershed go hand in hand.

We also know that the Chesapeake is a critical economic driver for watershed states, providing abundant tourism and recreational opportunities, sustaining fisheries and creating jobs. The Bay watershed is essential to the region’s way of life and it continues to deserve and receive priority status at the EPA.

The Biden administration has placed an emphasis on scientific integrity and the need to rely on science to tell us, among other things, where we are and how far we need to go in our restoration efforts. That is certainly true at the Bay Program, where cutting-edge science is a hallmark of our partnership.

The EPA and broader Bay Program partnership are also in sync on two overarching issues — climate change and environmental justice — and we’re taking action to advance them.

The Bay Program’s Executive Council, which includes the EPA administrator, governors of the watershed states and other representatives, is working toward a climate directive that would confirm and reinforce a science-based understanding that climate change is significantly affecting the Chesapeake and its watershed, and that urgent attention is warranted.

The action would complement a history of involvement of the Bay Program in climate change considerations. For instance, the Bay Program has established goals for protecting and conserving lands since the signing of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, putting the partnership within reach of Biden’s “30 by 30” executive order, with its goal of conserving 30 % of the land in the watershed by 2030. That would not only advance our restoration efforts but also make the region more climate resilient.

Meanwhile, a Climate Resiliency Workgroup is focused on the specific climate-related outcomes in the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, as Bay Program partners implement management practices —from stormwater to agriculture — designed to counter increased rainfall volumes and intensities that are expected in the future for all counties in the Bay watershed.

The partnership has also embraced a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Strategy Implementation Plan that seeks to build relationships with underrepresented communities and will help ensure everyone in the watershed shares in the environmental and economic benefits of the cleanup work.

We’ve come a long way in our restoration efforts, but we still have much to do. We look forward to continued collaboration with our partners as we work to pick up the pace of our efforts and realize the promise of a clean Chesapeake Bay.

Diana Esher is the acting regional administrator for the U.S. EPA’s Region 3, which includes virtually all of the Bay watershed. 

The views expressed by opinion columnists are not necessarily those of the Bay Journal.

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