The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America; covering 64,000 square miles and home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. More than 17 million people live in the watershed, and more than 100,000 streams, creeks, and rivers drain into the Bay. Despite the progress made through multi-state, multi-governmental strategies over the 64,000 square miles covered by the Chesapeake Bay's watershed, the wildlife, and natural systems of the Chesapeake Bay remain under siege. Environmental stressors come in multiple forms. Some are immediate, such as runoff and polluted water from developed areas channeling into the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Others are less conspicuous, as with the more gradual but equally damaging effects of global warming. Depletion of habitat, elevated water temperatures, the disappearance of natural buffers, and pollution are causing the deterioration of the Bay's ecosystems.
For more than 25 years, nonprofits, state and local agencies, and the federal government have been fighting for clean water, fishable rivers and streams, and a healthy Chesapeake Bay. There is general consensus that the voluntary nature of the current authorization is insufficient to make meaningful progress on Bay restoration. Environmental provisions in previous legislation have repeatedly failed to address the consequences of overdevelopment throughout the watershed: the forces of transportation, infrastructure, and industry have caused an onslaught of pollution into the Bay with little restraint.
With approximately one third of the land area in Delaware draining to the Chesapeake Bay, the state has a vested interest in keeping this waterway as pristine as possible. In 2000, then Delaware Governor Thomas Carper signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the other Chesapeake Bay states, which outlined the reduction of pollutants coming from Delaware in order to help restore the water quality in the streams, rivers, and bays. Since that time, groups have begun to mobilize and a new Administration has taken office.
Approximately eighteen months ago, the National Wildlife Federation and various regional and state organizations formed the Chesapeake "Choose Clean Water Coalition" with the intention of bringing all stakeholders together to advance meaningful clean up efforts on the Bay. The Choose Clean Water Coalition is comprised of more than 100 organizations from the six states and the nation's capital, representing 1 million-plus members in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The Delaware Nature Society sits on the Coalition's Steering Committee and participates frequently in conference calls, conversations with Delaware's Congressional delegation, and Coalition conferences. Click to learn more about the "Choose Clean Water" Campaign
In May 2009, President Obama signed an Executive Order that calls for leadership from the federal government to regulate the pollution flowing into the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration Executive Order establishes a Federal Leadership Committee, chaired by the EPA Administrator that will oversee the development and coordination of reporting, data management and other programs and activities by agencies involved with Bay restoration. Click to see the entire Executive Order
In October 2009, Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) introduced the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009. Co-Sponsored by all three members of Delaware's Congressional delegation, this bill gives Bay states like Delaware strong tools to restore their rivers and streams with a significant increase in federal funds by expanding and enhancing monitoring grants. For the first time, headwater states like Delaware will be eligible for implementation grants. In addition, the Act creates two new grant programs for local governments related to reducing stormwater pollution. This legislation would fix the serious nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment problems for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, not by expanding the scope of direct federal regulation, but by copying the Clean Air Act approach: setting a federal standard, and giving the states flexibility in meeting it. The interstate trading provisions, which would operate much like the successful sulfur dioxide credit trading program, could bring compliance costs down dramatically. This legislation could serve as a model for the nation for revising the Clean Water Act in the years to come. The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act also provides needed legal pollution limits that will finally restore and maintain the integrity of our waters.
Click to review the current legislation
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