Chesapeake Bay

Most Pennsylvanians don’t realize the enormous impact our state has on the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay. Half of all freshwater that flows into the bay comes from Pennsylvania and, specifically, the Susquehanna River Basin, which covers half the land area of Pennsylvania.

Pollution and debris from our cities, towns and farms is carried directly into the bay, which has been suffering for decades from poor water quality, a decline in aquatic life, and other negative impacts associated with pollution. 

There are three major contributors to the poor health of the Chesapeake Bay—nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment. To address this, Pennsylvania is required to reduce its load of pollution into the Susquehanna River by 34 million pounds of nitrogen and 756,000 pounds of phosphorus by 2025.

Unfortunately, even after years of research and community engagement, Pennsylvania faces an annual $324 million funding shortfall for implementing its Phase 3 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan, commonly known as the WIP. You can read more about Pennsylvania’s WIP here. 

In addition, you can read PennFuture’s comments submitted to the Department of Environmental Protection about the WIP by clicking here, and you can read about Pennsylvania’s inadequate efforts at reducing pollution in the bay by clicking here

PennFuture and partner organizations daily are advocating for increased funding and the implementation of clean water policies that won’t just impact our local streams and rivers, but also the Chesapeake Bay. We will continue to work with Pennsylvania state agencies to implement pollution reduction measures, advocate to the legislature to support funding to implement important practices, and monitor those that contribute pollution for compliance with the law and opportunities to go further.

In addition, PennFuture is also the state lead for the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which harnesses the collective power of more than 250 groups to advocate for clean rivers and streams in all communities in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

Restoring the Chesapeake Bay requires widespread adoption of new agricultural practices, construction methods, street cleaning efforts and stormwater infrastructure. 

Currently, a bottom-up approach has mobilized coordination among local stakeholders and hundreds of rural, suburban and urban municipalities. Although efforts are led by county leaders and plans, these communities but their budgets simply cannot sustain the cost of new restoration and pollution-prevention programs. 

An estimated investment of more than $521 million annually is necessary for Pennsylvania to achieve its Chesapeake Bay goals. As of 2019, less than $200 million of federal, state, and local resources are available to the cause.

PennFuture calls upon state officials to prioritize more ambitious, tangible Chesapeake Bay protections. The Pennsylvania Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) fails to provide necessary funding, accountability and enforcement. 

Read more of PennFuture’s take on the WIP.

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