Momentous Week for the Chesapeake Bay
Two events this past week mark the turning tide in the restoration of the troubled Chesapeake. First was EPA's settlement of the lawsuit with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation by entering into a binding legal agreement to enforce pollution limits on the six states (and the District of Columbia) which adjoin the bay's watershed. The agreement comes with strict caps on nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment measured against benchmarks set every two years starting in 2011.
Second was the release of the federal government's new strategy for protecting and restoring the entire Chesapeake region. This strategy is pursuant to the May 12, 2009 Executive Order (13508) issued by the Obama administration declaring the Chesapeake bay a national treasure and declaring a new era of federal leadership, action and accountability in protecting and restoring the nation's largest estuarine ecosystem.
The strategy outlines four essential priorities for healthy Chesapeake: restore clean water; recover habitat; sustain fish and wildlife; and conserve land and increase public access. The strategy also features four cross-cutting themes that directly support achievement of the essential priorities: expand citizen stewardship; respond to climate change; develop environmental markets; and strengthen science.
Here at Ecosystem Marketplace, we'll be keeping track of the work of USDA's Office of Environmental Markets as they work with other federal agencies to develop and support markets for ecosystem services across the Chesapeake. Initial focus will be on developing tools for measuring performance of conservation practices; establishing protocols for setting baselines; developing vital infrastructure such as registries and certification processes; creating opportunities for stacking and bundling of ecosystem services and exploring options for insurance mechanisms.
Suggested in an article in the Washington Post on May 12, one way to help solidify EPA's new commitment to measurable pollution reductions and provide overarching support of the priorities of the new federal strategy to restore the bay is to enact the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act. The bill, sponsored by Senator Benjamin Cardin, would help defend pollution reduction targets against legal challenges, ensure that targets would be sustained by future administrations and provide much needed federal funding to support the new federal strategy.
Other coverage of the new federal strategy can be found on WRI's website.