Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Chesapeake Bay is Healthier

After one hundred days in office it is unmistakably clear that the Trumpster is no friend of the environment.  From his penchant for building an ecosytem wrecking wall to his slashing of the EPA budget and efforts to revoke previous national monument designations, he is proving his pro-exploitation ideology to "make America great again".  One example of his anti-nature policies is his plan to defund the decades long federal effort to clean up Chesapeake Bay.  The efforts are starting to pay off.  Water ecologists say now is the time to step efforts, not end them, in order to turn the natural system's balance decisively toward complete recovery.  Cleaning Chesapeake Bay is not just a matter of aethetics, either.  It is one of the most productive ecosystems on the East Coast annually producing tons of fish and crustaceans for seafood lovers throughout the US.

Who cares if the Chesapeake is return to health?  Certainly not Donald Trump.  His budget intends to zero out the federal restoration program began in 1983.  Even Ronald Regan declared the Chesapeake, "a national treasure".  Because the Chesapeake estuary borders on several states, and its tributaries--including the heavily polluted Potomac River--drain a sixth of the East Coast, it was agreed early on that the recovery effort should be a federal one [map].  The pollutants entering the bay are complex ranging from human sewage, wastewater run off, manure and chemicals from farm fields, and dirty air blowing across its surface.  The toxic mix degrades water quality through eutrophication--decline in oxygen levels and clarity--to the point that Maryland's lucrative crabbing industry was starting to suffer financially.  Despite the obvious economic contribution the Bay is making to the economies of Virginia and Maryland, it is unlikely they could afford to replace the federal funding of $73 million Trump wants to spend elsewhere.

Fortunately the chances of Trump succeeding in ending the clean up altogether are slim to none.  Some Republican congress members support continuing it.  But other cuts to agencies involved in protecting nature and thereby the public's health are more worrisome to experts.  EPA's budget is to be reduced by 31%, USDA's by 21% and big cuts for the DOI, NOAA, USGS and Corps of Engineers.  Bay restoration involves six states and twelve federal agencies in an admirable example of "collaborative federalism".  In other words, to accomplish his radical agenda, the Donald wants to defund a program that actually works to ameliorate man's heavy burden on the natural world.

Conservationists know it is working because regular water quality monitoring by the USGS shows that it is improving.  The annual "dead zone"  in summer is shrinking and sea grass is returning because of increased clarity.  Commercial fish stocks are increasing.  Oysters once covered the Bay bottom, but are now at 1% of historic levels.  $6.5 billion is being spent to rebuild oyster reefs in ten Chesapeake rivers.  Eight thousand miles of forests and meadows are being replanted to provide natural filters for water entering the bay.  All of these programs and their beneficial results would end if Trump has his way; he vacations in Florida not the Eastern Shore. Congress sets budget priorities, and it a republic they should reflect the greatest good for the greatest number.   A study by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says a fully restore Bay would contribute $22 billiion a year to the region's economy.  Build a hotel around that, Mr. Trump!