Here’s a short explainer on what it’s going to take to clean up pollution and reduce the dead zone in the Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed is a lifeline to 18 million people and 3,600 species of animals and plants. Its impact reverberates not just in the immediate Bay, but in the six states (Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) and District of Columbia, that feed it.
The watershed’s connectivity to major urban environments and working agricultural lands have contributed to massive amounts of pollution flowing into the Bay significantly harming water quality and negatively impacting the fish and wildlife. Every year, a dead zone forms along the mainstem of the Chesapeake Bay, occupying about 40 percent of its area and up to 5 percent of the Bay’s water volume.
A Commitment to Clean-Up
While the states worked for decades to try to clean up the Bay and the waterways that fed it, efforts were coming up short. So in 2010, the federal government stepped in to help create a plan to clean up the Bay by 2025. The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) established pollution benchmarks that the states would have to meet. In order to achieve those goals, each state developed Watershed Implementation Plans, which have been updated over time. States are currently on Phase 3 of their Watershed Implementation Plans.
Unfortunately, it appears as if Pennsylvania is at risk of falling short. This is deeply troubling since most of the pollutants entering the Bay come from Pennsylvania. For example, the Susquehanna River, which flows from New York through Pennsylvania and into Maryland, provides about half of the water for the Chesapeake Bay. A 2020 preliminary report by Pennsylvania’s Department of Environmental Protection found that 30 percent (25,850 stream miles) of Pennsylvania portion of the Susquehanna River is impaired.
To meet its nitrogen reduction goals, Pennsylvania needs to reduce the amount of nitrogen that it releases into the Bay by 34 million pounds, but under its Phase 3 Watershed Implementation plan, it will only be able to cut two-thirds of that pollution.
Barriers to a Better Bay
So, what is preventing Pennsylvania from meeting its goal? Well, in order to meet its pollution reduction benchmark, Pennsylvania would need to invest an additional $257 million a year into its Bay waterways. We think this is a wise investment, given that the Bay filters drinking water for 75 percent of watershed residents.
Unfortunately, Pennsylvania state lawmakers tried to pass legislation that would freeze or redirect funding for some of the state’s most effective conservation programs.
We know that policymakers are under mounting pressure as they deal with coronavirus impacts and the ensuing economic fallout, but now is not the time to cut job-creating investments. The Bay contributes billions of dollars to our economy every year.
So what can hunters and anglers do?
- Sign our petition to preserve the Chesapeake Bay to ensure clean drinking water for millions of Americans and restore habitat for fish.
- Raise awareness about this issue by sharing this blog on your social media channel.