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Chesapeake Bay Efforts Headed in Right Direction for 2018

As we approach the end of this crucial year for the Chesapeake Bay clean-up and efforts to meet its pollution reduction goals, Pennsylvania has taken a number of actions over the last month to capture the status of the state and provide input to the Environmental Protection Agency for the Total Maximum Daily Load’s mid-point assessment. 

Halfway to 2025, the decisions and efforts Bay watershed states make in 2018 will ensure that they remain (or get on track) to meeting those pollution reduction goals.

In November, the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) Steering Committee for Pennsylvania recommended to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) that local goals for the WIP should be developed at the county scale and the level of effort for the Bay planning targets should be equal for all jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 

These decisions should be applauded, because they are strong, but feasible and realistic policy decisions for implementing changes and best management practices for Pennsylvania. Rich Batiuk at the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) office shared that he believes this was the right way for the Commonwealth, but recent discussions with EPA CBP Director Nicholas DiPasquale remind stakeholders that Pennsylvania should not lose sight of keeping a strong focus on York and Lancaster Counties specifically. Intentional and intensive focus must remain on the South Central Pennsylvania counties, which contribute the most load (nutrient pollutants and sediment) to the Susquehanna and Potomac River basins.

Over the last several months, DEP and EPA have collected – and continue to collect -  a significant amount of data and continuously monitor and analyze information to better perform and make public policy decisions. But, it is important to effectively target and prioritize available funding, technical, and human resources. It is becoming more evident that Pennsylvania should leverage relationships with public-private partnerships, involve the private sector to meet goals, and include innovative technology in its path forward, but these strategies and tactics must be proven to work and be equitable.

At last week’s December WIP Steering Committee meeting, stakeholders discussed other essential issues that need to be resolved for the Mid-Point Assessment of the Bay Program. Among these are Pennsylvania’s take on the effects of climate change on the Bay watershed, sector growth, and the issue of the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River. 

While these are large topics that encompass a great deal of uncertainty, changing landscapes and input needs, Pennsylvania must step up and be a strong leader on climate change in the next WIP and its actions moving forward in the Chesapeake Bay clean-up. Though it should be a team effort with New York and Maryland, addressing the overflowing of sedimentation and pollutants at the Conowingo Dam must include Pennsylvania as an equal party to provide support in finding a solution.

In terms of sector growth, it is imperative that the Commonwealth be thoughtful and include its ramifications in all planning processes. Tomorrow, the Principals’ Staff Committee of the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program meets to take action on the TMDL mid-point assessment, and we urge strong policies be enacted on climate change, the Conowingo Dam, and growth in the Bay watershed.

It is long past time for Pennsylvania to step up and be a leader in the Chesapeake Bay clean-up, but recent actions provide some hope for next steps. As stakeholders and citizen advocates, we must continue to remind our legislators and executive officials that clean water matters in Pennsylvania. To restore and steward our beloved watersheds in the Commonwealth, we must hold fast our engagement and commitment to rigorous planning goals and targets. 

Beside all requirements and goals, I long for the day I can share a few hours of crayfishing with my nephews in the currently impaired Conococheague and paddling in the impaired Susquehanna without fear of dirty water. 

My New Year’s resolution is to continue pushing hard for clean water in Pennsylvania and share my favorite waterways with friends and family more often. What’s yours?

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