The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released its 2018 State of the Bay Report last week, rating the health of the Chesapeake Bay at a score equivalent to a D+.
Staff writer Dandan Zou reported that the foundation attributes the decline in the bay’s health largely to “the record-breaking amount of rain that washed more pollution into the bay last year. Heavy rains brought large amounts of sediment and runoff into the bay, causing water clarity to worsen. Nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus pollution also increased as a result.”
Ms. Zou’s article, derived from information in the CBF report, stated that debris, sediment and other pollutants were flushed into the bay due to extended high flows in the Susquehanna River. Bay pollution via the Susquehanna and other sources outside Maryland is a very important point that should have been further explored in the newspaper article in order to give readers greater clarity about this issue.
CBF President Will Baker, commenting on the State of the Bay Report, addressed bay water pollution from outside Maryland in his January 2019 President’s Report. Mr. Baker stated that “extraordinary weather flushed enormous amounts of nitrogen, phosphorous, and debris — mostly from Pennsylvania, but also from other regions — off our lands and into the bay.” It is important to remember that the Chesapeake Bay watershed, about 64,000 square miles, includes parts of six states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia — and the entire District of Columbia. Pollution flows into the bay from all of these jurisdictions, especially from municipal sewage treatment plants, stormwater runoff from developments, and other non-point sources of water pollution.
The press and many environmental groups have attributed much of the ongoing pollution of the estuary to Maryland farms, but that attribution is no longer valid. Our farmers are committed to conserving and improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay. According to the Maryland Department of Agriculture, since 2017, there were more than 827,000 acres of farmland in compliance with nutrient management regulations that identify nutrient needs on crop and pasture fields. The department also reported there are 924,000 acres of farm and forest land under a soil conservation and water quality plan. These plans address natural resource management on agricultural lands and utilize experts to identify best management practices that would be most effective on that particular parcel of land. From planting cover crops that reduce soil erosion to transporting manure for alternative uses, the work of Maryland farmers has removed approximately 3.5 million pounds of nitrogen and 142 thousand pounds of phosphorus from the Chesapeake Bay in a single year. Maryland farmers have been very busy over the last 30 years working to protect the bay because we understand the importance of preserving our natural resources.
Most of our farms have been passed down through multiple generations, and we are hoping to continue the tradition and legacy by passing them down to our own children. Farmers were the first environmentalists and will continue to protect the Chesapeake Bay and other natural resources for future generations.