The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in North America, home to more than 3,600 species of plants and animals. The Chesapeake Bay watershed—the land that drains into the Bay—encompasses parts of six states and Washington, D.C. This national treasure has been deteriorating since the 1930s.
For three decades, states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed entered into voluntary agreements with one another promising to clean up the Bay with little to show for their efforts. No single state is solely to blame for the lack progress; rather, the repeated failures can be attributed to a dysfunctional “collaborative partnership” between the various states, all of which came to the negotiating table with wildly different priorities. CPR President Rena Steinzor and then-Executive Director Shana Jones wrote about the phenomenon in Collaborating to Nowhere: The Imperative of Government Accountability for Restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
The "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay embodied in the EPA's TMDL is both ambitious and workable, but it requires that the states in the Bay watershed live up to their commitments. Unfortunately, that hasn't been their history.
In May 2009, President Obama breathed new life into Bay restoration efforts when he issued an Executive Order directing EPA to take a leadership role in cleaning up the Bay. The resulting Bay-wide pollution diet, referred to in the Clean Water Act as a total maximum daily load (TMDL), followed in 2010. It imposed strict limits on the quantities of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment that could be discharged into the Bay and allocated the total permissible amount of each pollutant among the Bay states and the District of Columbia. The Bay TMDL is the most ambitious and largest TMDL in the country and, if implemented correctly, offers the estuary its best chance at recovery.
In the intervening years, the states in the Bay watershed have worked with varying degrees of diligence to implement the TMDL. CPR Member Scholars and staff have worked to keep the states on track, issuing a series of reports and creating a number of other tools to help policymakers and the public gauge progress.
Highlights of CPR's Recent Work on the Chesapeake Bay:
Mapping Phosphorus in Maryland's Eastern Shore Farms. All but one industrial-scale chicken farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has fields with “excessive” soil phosphorus, a major Chesapeake Bay pollutant.Check out CPR's new interactive map of the region.