In an August 27 MarylandReporter.com opinion piece, Bay Journal News Service writer and environmentalist Tom Horton discussed the challenges that currently “uncontrollable” variables p0se to Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration efforts. Specifically, he cites: (1) the expansion of watershed farmland; (2) the reduced use of agricultural buffers due to higher grain prices; (3) predicted climate change effects, including rising sea levels and warming waters; (4) the effects of natural gas fracking; (5) population increase; and (6) natural cycles like the North Atlantic Oscillation.
Horton argues that while the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tries to account for these uncontrollable in its Bay computer models, Bay stakeholders should take more direct action to address at least some of these variables. From the opinion piece:
Deal right now, with the most predictable uncontrollables, like sea level rise. Retreat wherever appropriate from the Bay’s edges; leave room for rising seas to create wetlands as they destroy existing ones. Build reforestation into the price of all that “cheap” new fracked gas to reflect its real cost.
Require proven ag pollution controls like winter cover crops that suck up polluted runoff. Regulate the spreading of animal manure. Tightly monitor farm practices to reduce pollution. Too much is now computer-modeled, not measured, and we don’t know what’s working.
And, we can begin to honestly ask whether it’s likely we’ll have water quality in a Bay with a watershed that holds 24 million people that’s as healthy as when there were 8 million.