The sun rises on the Chesapeake Bay.
The sun rises on the Chesapeake Bay. (File photo by Joshua McKerrow, Staff, Capital Gazette)

After three decades of work and more than $15 billion spent, the Chesapeake Bay isn't cleaned up.
Measures of water quality -- clarity, oxygen, grass, algae -- remain far below goals for a healthy estuary.
Officials pledged to restore the Chesapeake in a historic 1983 agreement.
Water quality saw slight improvement since then. The annual volume of pollution decreased, but remains short of goals.
Stormwater fees are now costing taxpayers millions more to clean the bay, though widespread results might not appear for years.
"The watershed is a group of people trying to lose weight," said Margaret Enloe of the Chesapeake Bay Program. "Just because they all start eating salads at the same time, doesn't mean they all (soon) respond."
Critics, however, say missteps cost tax dollars and slowed the effort.
For this week-long series, "Troubled Waters," Capital reporters followed billions in spending to find mixed results:

  • So much money spent by so many federal and state agencies that, until recently, nobody could keep track.
  • Uncoordinated efforts and ineffectual programs, though better results are produced now.
  • Stormwater fees mean average Marylanders will pay more to clean the bay, but it's uncertain whether it will be enough.
  • A 1980s moratorium saved rockfish, but millions of tax dollars haven't restored oysters or stabilized crabs.
  • A new plan, based on tough enforcement, is praised as the best hope; but questions persist about paying for it.

This ambitious plan will cost billions of dollars, increasing in price as more people arrive -- leaving Marylanders to once again ask:
Can the bay be saved?