The 2014 State of the Bay Report scores the health of the bay at 32 out of 100, a D+ according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. When I was in school anything below a 60 was an F. However, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation grades on a curve. The current goals of all the Environmental Protection Agency mandated Watershed Implementation Plans is a grade of 70, which would represent a saved Bay according to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. If you recall the EPA mandated a contamination limit called the TMDL (total maximum daily load for nutrient contamination and sediment) to restore the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. The TMDL sets a total Chesapeake Bay watershed limits for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that were then partitioned to the various states and river basins. Each of the states and Washington DC were required to submit and have approved by the EPA a detailed plan of how they intend to achieve the pollution reduction goals assigned to them. These plans are called the Watershed Implementation Plans, WIPs, but the Chesapeake Bay Foundation refers to them as the “Clean Water Blueprint.”
In case you are wondering what constitutes a 100, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation says that the unspoiled Bay ecosystem described by Captain John Smith in the 1600s, with extensive forests and wetlands, clear water, abundant fish and oysters, and lush growths of submerged vegetation would rate a 100 on their scale.
Reducing pollution from agriculture is the goal of the Watershed Implementation Plans and the key to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. An often stated fact is that agriculture is the largest source of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. What is usually not reported is that agriculture is the largest source of nutrient pollution because it is the largest active land use in the region not because agriculture is more polluting than other land uses. According to the Chesapeake Bay model, agricultural land represents almost twice the land as the developed areas. Bay-wide, agriculture is not on pace to meet the 2017 WIP benchmarks, though Virginia is on track thanks to a very successful implementation of a stream exclusion fencing program that has the state paying 100% of the cost of the fencing. However, urban and suburban stormwater runoff is heading in the wrong direction.
Farmers have made progress, especially in Virginia, but not enough. Reducing pollution from agriculture and converting acreage to stream buffers and restoring wetlands is the cheapest way to reduce pollution, and the states WIPs expect to get 75 % of their nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reductions from agriculture. Even with using the agricultural lands to achieve most of the pollution reductions, the costs of the Watershed Implementation plans are astronomical, about $13.6-$15.7 billion in Virginia alone.
|from Chesapeake Bay Foundation report|