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 September 2013, a federal judge upheld the TMDL against a challenge by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Read CPR’s summary of the decision.
CPR Member Scholars and staff are working to ensure that the Bay states remain on track to meet this pollution diet.
Highlights of CPR's Recent Work on the Chesapeake Bay: