Opinion: Now is the time to move forward on great opportunities for improving the health of the Chesapeake Bay
By Captain Rob Newberry
The writer is chair of the Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc.
Recent reports on the current overall health of the Chesapeake Bay are not good.
The recently released Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s 2022 State of the Bay Report gave the overall health of the Bay a D+ grade (unchanged from the D+ grade in their 2020 report). Following the release of the CBF’s 2022 report a headline for a recent news article was “Despite cleanup efforts, the Chesapeake Bay remains a pollution challenge.” In this article, a spokesperson for the Bay Foundation candidly acknowledged that the needle has hardly moved since the CBF began issuing their Bay report card in 1998. He noted the original report gave the Bay a score of 27 out of 100. Today that score has only improved to 32 out of 100.
The only good news is that not all the news is bad news.
Another recently released biannual report on the health of the Bay from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES) gave the overall health of the Bay a C+ grade (up from a C grade in their 2020 report).
Unfortunately, the inconsistent grades in these reports creates great uncertainty on exactly what should be done going forward.
Now is the time for every key stakeholder and every key decision maker on the future of the Bay to embrace Winston Churchill’s advice – “In times of great uncertainty … look for great opportunities.”
Below are recommendations on great opportunities for helping improve the Bay’s overall health from the Delmarva Fisheries Association.
There is a great opportunity for CBF and UMCES to collaborate on developing and using state of the art research methodology to generate the best data and best analysis of Bay health indicators.
There is a great opportunity with a new governor and his team to facilitate candid dialogue, deliberation, and decisions on the following options that would have immediate and permanent positive impacts on water quality in the Bay and water flowing into the Bay:
- Maryland Board of Public Works approval of environmentally sensitive and minimally invasive precision dredging of recyclable oyster shells from the Man-O-War Shoal in the northern Chesapeake Bay for oyster population restoration programs.
• Timely and permanent solutions to chronic overflows of untreated sewage from the Back River and Patapsco wastewater treatment plants in Baltimore.
• Use adaptive science to better understand and accurately assess the impact of climate change on ever changing marine populations.
• Timely and permanent solutions to regular releases of sediment trapped behind the Conowingo Dam.
There is a great opportunity to end the political blame games focusing on which prior Maryland governors, elected officials, and appointed officials did or did not do to help the Bay and those who depend on it for a livelihood or for a wide range of recreational pursuits.
There is a great opportunity to acknowledge that over the past 60+ years, Maryland had eight governors (not including Governor Moore) five of whom were elected as Democrats and three of whom were elected as Republicans. None of them achieved great success in addressing Bay water quality issues that are much the same today as when Governor Tawes served and who suggested launching an organization we know today as the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
Last, but not least, there is a great opportunity to reach consensus that It is never too late to do the right things and to do those things the right way.
On behalf of the watermen and waterwomen I represent as chair of the Delmarva Fisheries Association, I say yes, we can do it on all the above great opportunities. Let’s start now on efforts that will really move the needle on improving the short term and the long-term health of the Chesapeake Bay.