Will Baker’s Testimony to the House of Representatives
Chesapeake Bay Foundation President Will Baker testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on June 25, 2019. He spoke on the history and importance of the Chesapeake Bay, our “national treasure.” The following is the case he made to congress. View his will written testimony.
The Chesapeake Bay is America’s largest estuary. When Colonial settlers arrived more than 400 years ago, the water was pristine. Then, 44,000 native Americans had little impact on the 64,000 square mile watershed. Today, there are nearly 19 million of us, and we have had a significant negative impact.
On July 26, 1982, a banner headline in the Baltimore Sun read, “Bay is dying, scientists warn.”
A bi-partisan ground swell of concern arose. And in 1984, in his State of the Union address, Ronald Reagan called for the federal government to help save this national treasure.
In 1987, the Chesapeake Bay Program was created. It includes multiple federal agencies with EPA as lead. Most basically, it helps to ensure that the six states in the watershed work together.
The states and federal agencies signed an agreement to cut nitrogen and phosphorus pollution by 40 percent by the year 2000. But that goal was missed, by a lot.
The deadline was simply extended to 2010. And yet, by 2008 it was obvious to all that it too would be missed.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation sued EPA in a last-chance effort to achieve an enforceable plan. Fortunately, a settlement was negotiated, and EPA agreed to develop what is now the landmark Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint.
It has been a game changer.
Each jurisdiction agreed to do their share to reduce pollution and to do so in two-year reportable increments toward a 2025 deadline. EPA agreed to referee, and impose penalties if a state failed to meet its milestone targets.
EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is the glue that holds this multi-state restoration effort together. The program uses science proactively, provides grants to reduce pollution, and it monitors progress.
Experts around the world agree the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint is our best, and perhaps last chance, to save the Bay. The good news is it is working.
36 years after that Baltimore Sun headline, the same paper published a new one in 2018: “Scientists say they’re confident Chesapeake health is ‘significantly improving.’”
But we are not done. The recovery is fragile.
Just last year, a record-breaking 80 inches of rain delivered so much pollution that scientist believe we may see some of the worst levels of low oxygen in years.
And while most of the Bay States are largely on track, Pennsylvania is way behind. If the Bay is to be saved, EPA must hold Pennsylvania accountable.
The Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint is an international model. The Chesapeake Bay Program is essential, and it must be fully funded. We are grateful for the bi-partisan support here in the House to restore the funds cut by the President. Now onto the Senate.
Together, we are saving the Bay. Thank you!