EPA Launches New Initiative to Protect and Enhance Chesapeake Bay

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The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new initiative designed to further protect and enhance the vital Chesapeake Bay.

Under the new initiative, the EPA is allocating $6 million to Chesapeake Bay states to improve water quality by reducing excess nitrogen from agricultural operations. Each state in the Chesapeake Bay watershed recently submitted Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP), in which they committed to reduce nitrogen loads from the agriculture sector from 2019 to 2025. 

EPA analyses have shown that reducing nitrogen through improved agricultural practices in the bay watershed is far less costly – and more effective – than reducing phosphorus to improve water quality.

“We have determined where these additional funds can best be put to use to most effectively result in the greatest water quality benefits in the bay,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “The efforts will also help to improve local streams and rivers across the watershed.”

The $6 million is part of an increase in the FY 2020 EPA Chesapeake Bay Program budget approved by Congress and signed by President Trump. The monies will be distributed between Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York and West Virginia. The District of Columbia remains part of the jurisdictional area but was excluded from the funding because it does not have an agricultural commitment in its Phase III WIP.

“The water quality in the Chesapeake Bay watershed has recently reached the highest standards in more than 30 years,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “The primary focus of this funding is the continued reduction of nitrogen from agricultural sources, which has been one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome as we strive to make the bay ever cleaner.”

The largest estuary in the United States, the Chesapeake is a vital waterway for shipping with two of the United States’ five major North Atlantic ports – Baltimore and Hampton Roads – both located on the bay. The EPA is working with federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations and academic institutions to coordinate restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.