Chesapeake Bay is getting cleaner, but tall hurdles remain

The environmental patient known as the Chesapeake Bay is getting better. But he’s still under the weather. That’s the layman’s translation to the latest scientific data regarding the cleanup of the Chesapeake.

Three separate organizations are charting slight improvement in the environmental health and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, though Pennsylvania remains in the back of the conservation pack.

The Chesapeake Bay Program, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the University of Maryland for Environmental Science compiled the data that evaluates various aspects of the bay and assess its pollution level.

Data shows the bay has improved its ecosystem resiliency, its oyster reefs are being rebuilt, the water quality is rising and bay grasses are being restored.

Unfortunately, the data also shows a large portion of the bay pollution still is due to Pennsylvania’s agricultural industry, primarily in Lancaster County, a hotspot for farmers.

So state Rep. Garth Everett, a Muncy Republican who represents much of our region and is chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the multi-state government organization devoted to the bay, has a big assignment.

A high percentage of the bay pollution comes from farm water runoff that reaches streams and rivers.

Everett said the commission is trying to help farmers voluntarily reduce runoff pollution because much of it is not currently regulated. But more regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency are on the way to meet its 2025 deadline for standard level of improvement.

More money is needed from the state to fight the problem. More lawmakers who are motivated to pass practical legislation are needed. Unfortunately, both are in short supply right now.

So, big picture, the bay is getting cleaner, but the tallest hurdles remain.