Baltimore Sun op-ed: Bay Cleanup Must Factor in Climate Change

by David Flores

February 28, 2017

This op-ed originally ran in the Baltimore Sun.

Last summer, when floodwaters nearly wiped out Old Ellicott City, many people looked at the damage as bad luck caused by a 500-year storm. The truth is that such storms are no longer rare events. The Northeast United States has experienced a staggering 70 percent increase in intense rainstorms thanks to climate change. Unfortunately, efforts in the Chesapeake Bay region to adapt policies to address these threats are lagging far behind, and without broad and meaningful action, more property damage, injuries and loss of life are likely. Heavier and more frequent rains, among other impacts of climate change, also pose a threat to the massive effort to clean up the bay.

On Wednesday, Maryland's secretaries of the departments of agriculture, natural resources and environment will have a chance to turn the tide. They will be meeting with federal officials and their counterparts from other states in the region to discuss where we stand and where we are headed at the midpoint of the region's 15-year effort to follow a "pollution diet" for the bay.

One of the key questions before Secretaries Joe Bartenfelder, Mark Belton and Ben Grumbles is whether the bay pollution diet should factor in the effects of our changing climate. The science is strong. Increased rainfall will wash more pollution into the bay. Rising sea levels will substantially reduce the estuary's extensive tidal wetlands, reducing their ability to absorb nutrients and sediment pollution. Rain gardens, stream restorations and other "best management practices" will be less effective if they are geared to past rainfall totals rather than to future projections based on robust climate change modeling.

All told, bay experts estimate that climate change will require a modest increase in effort to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution to meet 2025 water quality goals. Further, they maintain that local jurisdictions must take into account climate change when designing and building restoration practices to ensure that restored wetlands or rain gardens, for example, can withstand future sea level rise and intensified storms.

Be the first to comment on this entry.
We ask for your email address so that we may follow up with you, ask you to clarify your comment in some way, or perhaps alert you to someone else's response. Only the name you supply and your comment will be displayed on the site to the public. Our blog is a forum for the exchange of ideas, and we hope to foster intelligent, interesting and respectful discussion. We do not apply an ideological screen, however, we reserve the right to remove blog posts we deem inappropriate for any reason, but particularly for language that we deem to be in the nature of a personal attack or otherwise offensive. If we remove a comment you've posted, and you want to know why, ask us (info@progressivereform.org) and we will tell you. If you see a post you regard as offensive, please let us know.

Also from David Flores

David Flores, J.D., is a CPR Policy Analyst. He joined CPR in 2016 to work on climate adaptation policy and advocacy. Before joining CPR, Mr. Flores spent eight years working for watershed nonprofit Blue Water Baltimore, where he managed water quality monitoring research, legal and regulatory advocacy, and Clean Water Act compliance monitoring and enforcement programming.

The Center for Progressive Reform

455 Massachusetts Ave., NW, #150-513
Washington, DC 20001
info@progressivereform.org
202.747.0698

© Center for Progressive Reform, 2015