On June 16, a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed by the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the EPA administrator; and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. While local governments are not official signatories to the new agreement, we have an important role to play in the protection and restoration effort.

We also have much to gain.

The drafting of the Watershed Agreement was a team effort, involving federal, state and local governments; legislative commissions; nongovernmental organizations; and citizens from across the watershed.

Members of the Local Government Advisory Committee were also actively engaged, making sure that the interests of local government were represented. The signing of the agreement, represents a recommitment to clean local rivers and streams and a healthy, resilient Bay.

Local governments throughout the nation are faced with many challenges, not the least of which is ensuring that our communities have a safe and reliable source of water.

The 2014 Elk River chemical spill in West Virginia made us all too aware of the risks our communities face when drinking water supplies are threatened. And, the increasing severity of storms has heightened our awareness of the need to build resiliency into implementation actions to account for climate change.

While the new Watershed Agreement doesn’t solve any of these problems, it will help the Chesapeake Bay Program partners better direct their attention to the many issues affecting the health of the watershed.

Meanwhile, those of us working at the local level can focus on those issues that matter most to our citizens, whether that be addressing flooding, protecting drinking water or restoring a trout stream.

To implement the Watershed Agreement, teams of scientists, issue experts, state and local governments, nongovernmental organizations and citizens are drafting plans that will guide restoration and conservation for many years to come.

These plans, called Management Strategies, will identify what, if any, role there is for local governments in achieving a particular outcome, and what actions, tools or technical support are needed to empower local governments and others to do their part.

I encourage you to read the new agreement and to identify the goals and outcomes that intersect with your community’s priorities. Then, get involved at www.chesapeakebay.net/managementstrategies. The collective impact of our individual efforts cannot be underestimated!

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