Chesapeake Bay Earns D+ On Latest Report Card, Investment In MDE Seeks To Improve Regulatory Enforcement
The Chesapeake Bay received a D+ on the 2022 Chesapeake Bay Foundation's state of the bay report, signaling that despite significant investment and effort, the watershed still has a long way to go.
In the first state of the bay report released in 1998, the bay received a score of 27 out of one hundred. In the more than 20 years since that initial report, the bay's score has improved by a meager five points to 32.
During his campaign for Governor, Wes Moore pledged to do what no Maryland Governor has achieved before: make meaningful progress towards cleaning up the bay.
In January, Moore announced more than $1.1 million in new funding for the Chesapeake Conservation Corps. The governor's proposed 2024 budget also includes funding for 67 new Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) employees.
Addressing staffing issues at the MDE will impact one of the most significant issues facing the bay: the underenforcement of existing regulations.
According to the 2022 Chesapeake Accountability Project report, between 2016 and 2021, Maryland issued 67% fewer water-related enforcement actions.
other significant threats facing the bay include extreme weather events, rising sea levels, and anoxic "dead zones." All of these issues are caused or exacerbated by climate change.
"the job is getting harder the longer we wait. The fingerprints of climate change are undeniable in this year's report. In just one example, sea level rise threatens almost 250,000 acres of tidal wetlands and coastal lands in the region," Hilary Harp Falk, President and CEO of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said.
The warmer water gets, the less oxygen it contains, making large swaths of the bay's interior uninhabitable for fish. Sea level rise is also destroying marshes and wetlands, which provide crucial habitats for the bay's many species.
Despite the troubling data, the CBF remains hopeful that we can leave a healthy watershed for the next generation.
"The Bay's remarkable resilience keeps me hopeful and is a sign that restoration efforts, for now, are holding the line. If we follow the science, commit to work together, and keep every partner in Bay restoration accountable, we can still leave a healthy watershed for the next generation," Harp Falk said.
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