Bay States Announce Goals and Management Strategies

As previously reported on Conduit Street, all states located in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed recently signed a new Watershed Agreement.  The agreement’s 31 outcomes are more general than in the prior three agreements, and call for (among other things) 85,000 acres of wetland restoration, 900 miles of new forest stream buffers annually, and the protection of 2 million acres of land, all by 2025.  A September 25 Bay Journal article (published in the Journal’s October 2014 print edition) examined concerns about states being able to chose which of the 31 outcomes they will undertake and how states will formulate “management strategies” that are required under the new agreement.  The management strategies must outline the steps a state will take over two-year increments to meet the agreement’s outcomes.

The article summarized the number of outcomes adopted by each Bay state:

One controversial part of the agreement was that not all signatories were obligated to work toward each outcome. Environmental groups in particular expressed concern that if states could “opt out” of certain parts, it would jeopardize the ability to achieve goals.  …

On Sept. 16 — the three month anniversary of the agreement signing — the state-federal Bay Program partnership released a list showing that Maryland, Virginia and the Chesapeake Bay Commission had agreed to work on all 31 outcomes. One or more federal agencies are also working on each strategy.

Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia agreed to work on 26 outcomes, and Delaware 24. For the most part, those jurisdictions are not participating in outcomes related to Bay fisheries or habitats immediately surrounding the Chesapeake.

New York signed up to participate in 15 outcomes and West Virginia, eight.

Nick DiPasquale, director of the EPA Bay Program Office, which coordinates state-federal Bay activities, described the September list as a “first cut” and said he expected participation to grow, especially for headwater states.

The article also described the management strategy process:

[The drafting of management strategies] will be done by teams that include agreement signatories as well as representatives from stakeholder groups. Strategies are to be completed in March. They will then be submitted for public comment. Final documents to be approved by June 16, 2015.

The strategies will not only identify what actions are needed to accomplish each outcome, but will also identify factors that could hurt the ability to achieve the goals, such as land use change, regulatory obstacles or lack of local support. They also need to suggest ways those problems might be overcome.

The strategies will identify existing programs that can help achieve the goals, and where those programs may need improvements.

They also need to identify how progress will be monitored and how programs can be adapted to address shortfalls in progress or changing conditions.

Finally, the article discussed how the public can submit comments and become involved in the development of the management strategies through the Bay Program.  For further information, click here.