Report: Bay health improving, states still facing challenges

Chesapeake Bay

NORTH BEACH, MD – AUGUST 03: A Blue Heron walks along the rocks as the early morning sun is reflected over the Chesapeake Bay August 3, 2006 in North Beach, Maryland. Temperatures in the Washington, DC area are expected to reach the upper ninties. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY/AP) — The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) says the health of the Chesapeake Bay is improving, but huge challenges remain.

The foundation on Wednesday released a midpoint assessment of a federal plan to curb pollution flowing into the watershed by 2025. States are required to cut phosphorous, nitrogen and sediment from treated wastewater as well as runoff from farms and cities.

The good news in the report is that the bay’s oxygen dead zone is shrinking. Underwater grasses and oysters are making a coming back. Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia have reduced pollution coming from sewage treatment plants.

But the foundation say they’re not doing enough to tackle the pollution running off farms, and says Pennsylvania is particularly falling short.

The blueprint, which the foundation says is unlike any previous state or federal agreements, was implemented in 2010. Included in the agreement are pollution limits, plans to achieve these limits, milestones to evaluate progress, and consequences if progress is not achieved. 

The outline of the agreement says that 60 percent of bay restoration would be reached by 2017. This midpoint assessment evaluates if that 60 percent goal has been met. 

The next step of the blueprint will describe what actions need to be taken between now and 2025, the deadline set for full implementation. Future plans must also take into account new sources of pollution, as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

The foundation says that implementing these plans in the future may become more difficult due to proposals by the Trump Administration. These proposals include slashing funding from EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program and reducing regulations on emissions from power plants and vehicles. This could increase air pollution in the area that is responsible for roughly one-third of the nitrogen pollution damaging the bay says CBF.

As far as the individual states commitment to the blueprint the CBF says that Pennsylvania is significantly behind in meeting its goals for nitrogen and sediment, but close to achieving its phosphorus goal.

Maryland achieved its overall 2017 goals for phosphorus and sediment reduction, but fell short in nitrogen reduction says the foundation.

Virginia achieved it’s overall goals for 2017 for nitrogen and phosphorus reduction, but did not reach the goal for sediment. On a positive note, the foundation says that Virginia has exceeded pollution-reduction goals for wastewater, the state also remains on track for its agricultural phosphorus goal. 

Local governments will have the opportunity to be involved in clean water plans, to reduce waterways in the local community. The CBF encourages communities to get involved in water quality efforts by supporting the Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans. 

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