Become a digitalPLUS subscriber. 99¢ for 4 weeks.
NewsOpinionOp-Eds

To restore the bay, restore the bay partnership

Executive BranchRenovationEnvironmental PollutionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyEnvironmental Politics

When the Chesapeake Bay restoration program began in earnest in 1983, with the signing of the first Chesapeake Bay Agreement, it was hailed as the beginning of a new era of interjurisdictional partnering to save a national treasure. And so it was.

With the recognition that a "cooperative approach" was needed "to fully address the extent, complexity, and sources of pollutants entering the Bay," Pennsylvania Gov. Richard Thornburgh, Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes, Virginia Gov. Chuck Robb, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator William Ruckelshaus created the Chesapeake Executive Council with a commitment to "assess and oversee implementation of coordinated plans to improve and protect the water quality and living resources of the Chesapeake Bay."

This unique partnership of federal, state and city governments, of Republican and Democratic leadership, grew to be recognized internationally as one of the most successful multijurisdictional restoration efforts in the world. Led by officials who acted from a place of collaboration and restoration, with a vision that extended beyond their own jurisdictional lines or federal responsibilities, the partnership matured, establishing ambitious goals, forging unprecedented science and creating a culture of exploration, sharing and dialogue. The supporting restoration bureaucracy the agreement generated reflected a diversity of interests and expertise, where stakeholders dealt with complex problems from a unified commitment to accomplish progressive change.

That was then, this is now.

Today, the partnership is in a state of disarray. Longtime players within the Chesapeake Bay restoration community quietly lament the loss of cooperative commitment. The partnership, once so vibrant, so bipartisan, so full of ambition, hope and ideals, is now a partnership in name only.

Case in point: The last meeting of the Executive Council took place in August in Virginia. But Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell did not attend, and he was not alone in disregarding the meeting. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett, following in the footsteps of his predecessor — former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, an Executive Council member who repeatedly failed to participate in its meetings — also decided to forgo attending.

With lackluster commitment to attendance, as well as to dialogue and discussion, what was the outcome of this recent Executive Council meeting? Nothing. Not a single new interjurisdictional goal, policy or initiative.

When one attends the current meetings of the bureaucracy, one inevitably experiences stakeholders pursuing their own narrow agendas, protecting their particular parochial interests, their state borders or their governmental authorities.

Perhaps this devolution is but a reflection of what we have seen happen across our nation at both the state and federal level. Officials from differing parties and perspectives no longer cross the aisle with the same commitment to accomplishing a common goal or change. Rather, they repeatedly retreat to their corners, in preparation for another round of clobbering each other in the ring.

The Chesapeake Bay can ill afford the ongoing lack of commitment to regional partnering and solutions. While we have stayed the precipitous decline that plagued the Chesapeake in 1983, it remains far from healthy. Perhaps we need our current Executive Council members to revisit the history of the Chesapeake Bay restoration partnership and determine how it was that an EPA administrator originally appointed by Republican President Richard Nixon could forge with a Democratic Virginia governor who was the son-in-law of former President Lyndon Johnson a collaborative commitment to and vision of a restored Chesapeake that crossed state and federal lines of geography and authority.

"What's past is prologue," wrote Shakespeare. In this case, let's hope so.

Roy A. Hoagland has worked on Chesapeake Bay issues for more than 25 years, including several as a member and chairman of the Chesapeake Executive Council's Citizens Advisory Committee. He is the principal for HOPE Impacts, an environmental consulting firm partnering with nonprofits, governmental agencies, and foundations on Chesapeake Bay restoration matters. This article is distributed by the Bay Journal News Service.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
Executive BranchRenovationEnvironmental PollutionU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyEnvironmental Politics
  • Fix the Conowingo before another Hurricane Agnes hits [Letter]
    Fix the Conowingo before another Hurricane Agnes hits [Letter]

    I read with interest commentator Anirban Basu's article touting what a great asset the Conowingo dam is and how it enhances the lives of all Marylanders ("Support the dam to support Md.," Oct. 13).

  • How about aerators to clean up the bay?
    How about aerators to clean up the bay?

    I just read the article about dredging the Susquehanna River, and I couldn't help thinking back to the Seoul Olympics where they used aerators to clean up their filthy water and they got it clean enough that all of the rowing events were held in very safe water ("Study: Dredging little help...

  • Damming the bay's pollution
    Damming the bay's pollution

    Here's the gist of the recent report by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the Conowingo Dam: Don't confuse a red herring with a red tide. The notion that all the pollution woes of the Chesapeake Bay could be heaped on one 86-year-old hydroelectric facility on the Lower Susquehanna River was...

  • All Maryland's waterways deserve protection
    All Maryland's waterways deserve protection

    The Clean Water Act has brought progress to the Chesapeake Bay, but in order to continue the bay on the path to success we must protect all the waterways in Maryland, including the Anacostia River ("Close Clean Water Act loophole," Nov. 12).

  • Support Clean Water Act
    Support Clean Water Act

    On the 42nd anniversary of the Clean Water Act, a new report from Environment America, "Waterways Restored," highlights the success the law has meant for the Anacostia River, taking it from a state of horrific pollution to giving some hope that it will be safe for swimming and fishing in little...

  • Hogan needs to reverse O'Malley's onerous farm rules
    Hogan needs to reverse O'Malley's onerous farm rules

    In what will be seen as one of soon-to-be ex-Gov. Martin O'Malley's parting shots to the incoming Hogan administration, Mr. O'Malley is pushing through new regulations controlling how farmers fertilize their land ("O'Malley rushes to propose new pollution rules," Nov. 15). Never mind the fact...

  • Dam cleanup too costly
    Dam cleanup too costly

    Regarding the recent commentary about the Conowingo Dam ("Maryland can enforce dam cleanup," Nov. 19), Bob Irvin is correct for the most part. However, let's keep in mind that the Conowingo is a man-made obstruction to sediment, leaves and tree logs that Mother Nature really intended to go to...

  • Denying Conowingo permit won't clean bay
    Denying Conowingo permit won't clean bay

    While I understand the concern about accumulated nutrient buildup in the sediment upstream of the Conowingo Dam posing a hazard to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as an engineer I do not see what the operation of the dam's power station has anything to do with it ("Maryland can enforce dam...

Comments
Loading