ANNAPOLIS — The Environmental Protection Agency is accepting public comment though March 17 on the final draft version of its Chesapeake Bay Program watershed agreement.
The agreement is a partnership between the federal government and states in the bay watershed – Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, West Virginia and Delaware, along with Washington, D.C.
Program Director Nick DiPasquale said there has been a partnership agreement in place “in one form or fashion” since 1983. The original agreement started with Maryland and Virginia.
The draft agreement is 12 pages long, and DiPasquale said the Chesapeake Bay Program is seeking public input on it. He said the draft is not laden with scientific jargon, so it can be easily read by the public.
Public comment is being accepted until March 17. There are three ways people can submit a comment – in person at the March 13 meeting of the management board, which will be held from 10 a.m. to to 3 p.m. in the Joe Macknis Memorial Conference Room, 410 Severn Ave., Annapolis; submitting an online comment up to 750 words at www.chesapeakebay.net; or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The feedback on the agreement has already started. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a statement Wednesday, Jan. 29 stating its concern over the lack of goals to reduce toxic contamination and to address global climate change.
A 2000 update to the agreement had more than 100 goals, outcomes and commitments listed, DiPasquale said.
“There were a lot of things in there, and it was kind of difficult. A lot of those goals and outcomes and commitments got accomplished, but some didn’t,” he said. “We’re almost a decade and a half past that date and a lot has changed.”
Along with changes in technology, he said, climate change impacts have become a factor, and there’s better scientific information now circulating about the bay than there was before, so it was agreed by the signatories in 2011 that the agreement would be revisited and updated.
Also, during that time, executive orders had been released by President Barack Obama calling for a cleanup of the bay, including water quality mandates like the Total Maximum Daily Load, he said.
“We really need to try to harmonize these different mandates. Let’s look at the TMDL, the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the executive order, and try to define a single set of goals and objectives that we can focus on and [combine] our efforts,” DiPasquale said.
The new draft agreement contains seven primary goals – sustainable fisheries, vital habitats, water quality, healthy watersheds, land conservation, public access and environmental literacy.
The primary goals are supposed to be “aspirational,” DisPasquale said, but the outcomes that go along with each primary goal get more detailed, listing specific dates, numbers and actions.
Along with these goals and outcomes, there will be teams responsible for developing each of the management strategies as conditions change.
These implementation teams will be required to engage the public and look at factors like climate change, environmental conditions, sea level rise, increased temperatures and storm impacts, he said. That way as the conditions change, the implementation strategy is better suited to change with them.
“The old agreement really did a good job of getting us to where we’re at,” DiPasquale said. “We’re seeing improvement, but we know that we can do a better job, and the management strategies are one approach that we hope can let us do our business a little bit more effectively and a little bit more efficiently.”