A Timely Visit from Bay Executive Council

By Dan Smith & Lori Baranoff

Bald eagle soars over Anacostia River
Anacostia River

July 24 -- This week the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council – governors, the D.C. mayor, federal agency heads – convened for their annual meeting, this time at the National Arboretum on the Anacostia River. Their “big picture” focus on meeting major milestones necessary for a clean Bay by 2025 kept them from the river just down the hill -- where they may have glimpsed a bald eagle plucking a fish or a rower taking a lunch time canoe break on a gorgeous summer day. Those are river experiences we love to share and that show why this effort is so important.

The Anacostia that we use and love faces many challenges as it flows through the capital of our nation. Legacy contamination from industrial and commercial operations, pollutants carried by stormwater runoff, illegal dumping, sewer system overflows, and what now feels like a never-ending deluge of discarded plastic water bottles (!) are problems we wrestle with every day on our quest for the Anacostia to be safe for swimming, and for its once nourishing fish to again be healthy enough to eat. 

Waterways across the region face these same issues (and others in rural areas) – most not to the degree we see here  and all must be cleaned up for the Bay restoration to be successful. The Chesapeake Bay Agreement signed at last year’s Council meeting and the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, fully affirmed after a recent legal challenge, are critical to guide and coordinate the myriad actions needed to finally clean up the Bay and our Anacostia, not some day, but in the next 10 years.

2025: Their Goal is Our Goal

Progress toward meeting important 2017 cleanup targets set by Bay states and D.C. was recently evaluated by clean water advocates, including Anacostia Watershed Society. It is clear from these evaluations that more needs to be done across the board in order to meet these critical milestones and then the final 2025 goals. Performance highlights for our watershed jurisdictions:

  • The District of Columbia assessment found D.C. on track for urban stream restoration, excelling with stormwater infiltration practices, slightly off track for urban tree planting, and off track for impervious surface reduction, which they say will be more than made up by 2017 with additional infiltration practices. See the press release.
  • Maryland’s assessment is more mixed with poultry and animal waste practices off track and waste water treatment plants and ag cover crops on track. The two county efforts most important for the Anacostia were not evaluated here, but both have funding in place to ramp up major work required to meet their portions of 2017 runoff reduction goals. Getting high quality stormwater projects in the ground is now the challenge.

We’ll see how committed our states and the District are for clean water by their progress meeting important 2017 milestones. We welcome and need public support to enable us to encourage and assist jurisdictions to have success, and to also hold them accountable. The Executive Council performance spotlight may only come into play once a year, but we know that daily progress is the only way we can have a fishable and swimmable Bay, and Anacostia, in the next ten years.

All of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Choose Clean Water state assessments can be found online: http://choosecleanwater.org/press-room/news/



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