Grasonville, MD – Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife, and Congressman John Sarbanes (MD-03) held a field hearing today to review progress made by the Environmental Protection Agency-administered Chesapeake Bay Program. The first hearing since court-mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) limits went into effect, the discussion focused on progress that has been made toward recovery of the Bay, the effectiveness of current restoration programs and activities, and current and emerging issues of concern.
“The Chesapeake Bay is nothing less than an ecological and historic gem and an economic engine for Maryland,” said Senator Cardin. “But, like most of the watersheds in this nation, the Bay has had to deal with challenges that come from a growing and expanding population and accompanying increase in excess nitrogen and phosphorus that leads to greater dead zones. Actions taken by Maryland’s farmers and all sectors have contributed to a slowing of the degradation of the Chesapeake Bay’s health, but if we want to restore the Bay and continue to develop practices that can be applied across the country, we need to increase our commitment and become more creative in our solutions.”
“The Chesapeake Bay is the soul of our state and preserving it for future generations must be one of our top priorities,” said Congressman Sarbanes. “The EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program is making incredible strides in restoring the Bay and mitigating the severe consequences of increased pollution and contaminated runoff. I will continue working with Senator Cardin and our colleagues in the Maryland Congressional delegation to make sure the progress continues. The Bay is not only an environmental treasure, but an economic catalyst for the fishing and tourism industries, which put thousands of Marylanders to work.”
In the 30 years since the Chesapeake Bay Program started, the number of people living in the watershed has exploded. The population of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed has grown from 12 million when the Program started to nearly 18 million residents today. Because of this dramatic growth, the amounts of impervious surfaces have increased by about 100 percent over the same time frame. Among the impacts of this increased regional growth is an excess of nitrogen and phosphorus flowing into the Bay, causing the concentration of dissolved oxygen in water to decrease to a level that can no longer support living aquatic organisms, creating vast dead zones.
“The federal government can make a difference by supporting our farmers in their conservation efforts. Agricultural runoff represents the largest proportion of nutrient pollution for the Bay, and therefore offers the greatest opportunity for achieving meaningful nutrient reduction. In Maryland, our farmers have been at the forefront of conservation efforts. They are some of our best stewards of the land. That is why I worked so hard to get a Farm Bill that is fair to small farmers, and that brings money to Maryland for farmers to carry out conservation practices while retaining the yields required to stay in business,” Senator Cardin added.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation estimates that the Bay is worth $1 trillion related to fishing, tourism, property values, and shipping activities. Between just Maryland and Virginia, the commercial seafood industry equals $2 billion in sales, $1 billion in income, and more than 41,000 jobs per year.