Members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation convened today at the U.S. Capitol to hear from experts on the state of the Chesapeake Bay and current federal and state initiatives to restore this regional and national treasure. Attendees at the briefing included Senators Benjamin L. Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski, as well as Congressmen Steny Hoyer (MD-5), Chris Van Hollen (MD-8), Roscoe Bartlett (MD-6), Elijah Cummings (MD-7), John Sarbanes (MD-3), and Congressman Frank Kratovil (MD-1). The session was chaired by Senator Cardin who heads the Senate Environment and Public Works Water and Wildlife Subcommittee, which has oversight responsibility for the Chesapeake Bay Program.
"As we heard today, the overall health of the Bay continues to be poor. Water quality is less than half of what it needs to be. But we also heard that blue crabs are coming back, proving that a combination of smart management and pollution controls can restore the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem," Senator Cardin said. "Aggressive but smart regulations coupled with major investments in our cities and towns, on our farms and in the water can work. The Maryland delegation is united in our commitment to a healthy Chesapeake for our future."
"News of more crabs in the Bay is encouraging, but so much is left to be done," Senator Mikulski said. "Team Maryland must remain vigilant and active in leading the charge for a healthier Bay. I will always fight to protect the Bay and the jobs and livelihoods that depend on it. The Bay is a part of our way of life. It's critical to Maryland's economy, culture and heritage."
"While there have been signs that efforts to improve the Bay's health are having an impact, we still have a long way to go to fully restore this grand estuary," stated Congressman Hoyer. "This remains a massive undertaking that falls to government, communities and individuals alike. We will continue to work at the federal level to dedicate the resources and coordinate efforts to preserve the Bay and the economic and cultural value it has for the State of Maryland and the entire region."
"This year's Bay Barometer reminds us of the work left to be done to improve our environmental crown jewel, the Chesapeake Bay. However, I am very encouraged by our recent success in increasing the blue crab population," said Congressman Van Hollen. "In order to make lasting progress on the Bay, tough choices -- like the blue crab harvesting limits -- will have to be made. But if we listen to the experts, follow the science, and target our resources wisely, we will continue to see tangible results. As an original cosponsor of the legislation that will finally create enforcement mechanisms as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program, I look forward to working with all of my colleagues in Maryland and throughout the region to continue our fight to save the Bay."
"This annual report and briefing is important for us to review the impact of the range of programs underway aimed to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed," said Congressman Bartlett.
"The Chesapeake Bay is the dominant natural feature and natural resource in our area. Every effort we can put forth, toward cleaning and restoring the waters of the Bay, is critical," Congressman Cummings said. "The increase in blue crabs is a sign that some of what we have done has worked. We must continue to support efforts to create an equitable reduction of pollution, to try to clean the Chesapeake by 2025. I often say that our children are a living message to a future we will never see. Cleaning up our precious Bay will be our message to those children, that we cared enough about their future to ensure a cleaner, more pristine environment in which they could live."
"The Bay is a national treasure that's worth fighting for," said Congressman John Sarbanes. "I remain committed to providing the appropriate resources and regulatory framework that will help improve the health of the Bay. We must also do more to empower the 17 million people living in the watershed to become citizen stewards of the Chesapeake Bay. If each individual within the watershed contributes to clean-up efforts, even in small ways, the aggregate would yield significant results in moving Bay restoration forward."
"The health of the Bay is directly related to the health of Maryland's economy," said Congressman Kratovil. "We want the bay to be a source of crabs, oysters and rockfish, but the importance of the bay as a source of jobs, commerce and economic vitality can never be overlooked. I am committed to working not only with my colleagues in Washington but also local governments as well as stakeholders from the environmental and agricultural communities to make sure that we are on the path to a healthier Chesapeake bay and by virtue of that a healthier economy."
"I am encouraged that this year's "Bay Barometer' report shows signs of improvement in the health of the Chesapeake Bay, particularly in the areas of restoration and protection," said Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards. "This progress is exemplified by the highest blue crab levels in 17 years. However, more work remains to be done, and we must move toward implementing green solutions to protect the Bay, such as H.R. 4202, the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act, for the continued protection of our waterways for future generations."
Briefing Team Maryland today were Rich Batiuk, Associate Director and Senior Scientist, EPA Chesapeake Bay Program Office; Chuck Fox, Senior Advisor to the Administrator, EPA; and Shari Wilson, Secretary, Maryland Department of the Environment. Batiuk discussed the recently released 2009 Bay Barometer that showed some progress toward meeting both the health goals and the restoration goals. Fox provided an update on the current federal restoration efforts, led by EPA. He discussed impediments to the Bay restoration and how Senator Cardin's and Congressman Cumming's legislation parallels or differs from the President's Executive Order. Wilson recapped the latest successes of the blue crab population and also talked about what tools are needed to help Maryland achieve its obligations under the Clean Water Act and challenges to meeting the TMDL.