Fight for the Bay

Fight for the Bay

The Chesapeake Bay is North America’s largest estuary.  It was once a healthy, beautiful, and bountiful environment for both humans and wildlife.  Today, the Chesapeake is still unhealthy and in need of protection from the human habitation that has substantially deteriorated its health over the past century.  How to deal with the condition of the Bay is at the heart of the problem.  There are several schools of thought on how to improve the environment which include; Dark Green, Light Green, and Cornucopian thought according to Howard Ernst. 

Dark Green thought is the most radical.  They believe that no one has the right to lessen the condition of nature that those who deteriorate natural condition also weaken the human state.  Light Green though is more about the taking responsibility for the environment.  Light Green environmentalist want to partner with the government and are willing to compromise to achieve a better result for all.  Cornucopias look not at what is best of the environment but at what is best for the economy.  They try to create synergy between economic growth and environmental protection.  It is this fight over the cost/benefit that has created the political dead zone which has kept the Chesapeake from recovering faster through environmental efforts.  But without the minimal efforts taken the Bay may be in much worse shape than it is now.

The Chesapeake Bay has been in contention more than two hundred years.  Maryland and Virginia have been battling over the control of the Bay since 1785.  The valuable oysters known as “Chesapeake gold” led to several armed conflicts between Maryland and Virginia waterman.  The blue crab is the center of attention today.  Virginia uses controversial dredging during the winter and allow the harvest of egg-bearing crabs, practices which Maryland has banned.  The US Secretary of Commerce declared the blue crab fishery a federal disaster in 2008.  Although several attempts have been made to manage the Bay now have been able to completely reverse the condition in the Bay.

In the 1960’s the US Army Corps of Engineers attempt to manage the Bay had three goals.  1.  Assess the existing condition and resources of the Bay; 2.  Project future conditions; 3.  Recommend solutions to both the existing and future problems.  The first goal was reached in 1973, the second in 1976, but the third goal was not achieved the project was turned over to the newly formed EPA who chose to begin anew.   

In the 1970s Bernie Fowler, a county commissioner from Calver County, Maryland began a lawsuit against the state for not effectively controlling pollution along the Patuxent River.  After settling the suit regional management of the Bay began to take shape in the 1980s.  The Chesapeake Bay Commission was founded in 1980, the EPA’s study was completed in 1983, the Bay Agreements were conceived, and the Chesapeake Bay Program was established.   

Although the 1980s promised improvement to the Bay’s condition deception by program officials and misuse of computer programs led to expectations of improved environmental condition of the Chesapeake Bay not being met.  The Bay Program misused computer modeling to assess water quality.  It painted a picture that looked better than it was to help keep what little funding it had even though it was failing to improve the Bay.

All but three presidents, Nixon, Ford, and Carter have made promises to improve or protect the Bay.  President Johnson promised to make the Potomac “a model of beauty.”  President Regan during his 1984 State of the Union address declared the Bay “a special natural resource”.  George H. W. Bush vowed to “revitalize” it, President Clinton felt his programs would “help reclaim the natural beauty of the Chesapeake Bay,” while George W. Bush asserted that his administration was committed to protecting the Bay. (41)

Like the blue crab of the Chesapeake Bay, the environmentalist will fight for the Bay will not quite without a fight.  Ernest recounts the work of four individuals who worked on the front lines of advocacy for the environment.  Ann Pearson worked to introduce community planning to improve land use policies.  Gerald Winegrad worked to ban phosphates in Maryland.  Phosphates were removed from detergents in the United Stated by 1994.   Tyla Matteson and Glen Besa worked to stop the building of a reservoir in King William County.  The reservoir sanctioned by the state to provide water to the New Port News area threatened the Mattaponi, their native culture and the river they depended on.  The reservoir would destroy 400 acres of wetland, about 100 archaeological sites and  break a treaty from 1677 that stated no “edifice could be constructed within three miles  of the reservation.” (98)  The project was ultimately stopped by a US District Court when it ruled that the project was “unnecessarily destructive to the environment.” (103)  Mike Shay successfully fought to keep Safeway out of the Shadyside Peninsula of Anne Arundel County.  The corporation was kept out of the country with the help of advocates and a pair of bald eagles that miraculously began nesting near the construction site. 

The Chesapeake Bay is a national treasure and should be saved for future generations.  Lets fight for the Bay. 

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