Chesapeake Bay States Sign Pact to Improve Nation's Largest Estuary

June 17, 2014

Government leaders in the Chesapeake Bay watershed on Monday signed a broad agreement to restore the health of its waters, as the blue crab and oyster populations continue to fluctuate and scientists complain about toxins that are changing the sex of fish.

The Chesapeake Watershed Agreement is the third signed since the 1980s by the six watershed states — Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York — and the District.

Unlike in the previous agreements, the governors and mayor who signed it vowed to go beyond limiting the amount of pollution that rolls into bay tributaries from cities and farms. They pledged to investigate the effects of chemical contamination and toxins, look at how land use impedes the bay’s improvement and study the threat of sea-level rise.

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who spearheaded the effort, called it “the most inclusive, collaborative, goal-oriented agreement the Chesapeake Bay watershed has ever seen.” Not only does the pact address water quality, he said, “it also confronts critical emerging issues,” such as climate change, that previous agreements failed to consider.

The plan seeks to restore the bay by 2025. It requires cities to improve aging sewers to stop massive overflows and says livestock farms must limit manure flow during rain.

The Chesapeake Bay is the nation’s largest estuary, where salt water and fresh water mix to create a diverse abundance of marine life.

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