Federal agencies continue Bay restoration progress

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Federal agencies continue Bay restoration progress


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By Press Release, Chesapeake Bay Program Office

The Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay issued a combined report today highlighting both achievements from Fiscal Year 2013 (FY13) as well plans for ongoing restoration activities for Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14). The committee, comprised of the senior officials of the federal agencies responsible for Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, issues the report annual as required by Executive Order 13508, Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration.

The report examines federal agency efforts to restore clean water, recover habitat, sustain fish and wildlife, and conserve land and increase public access throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed – none of which would be possible without a continued commitment to working with state partners, stakeholders and citizens around the watershed.

These combined actions also support efforts to expand citizen stewardship, develop environmental markets, respond to climate change, and strengthen science, all in an effort to restore the Bay’s vibrant ecosystem for future generations.

“This report shows federal agencies are making great progress in restoring our ‘national treasure’ the Chesapeake Bay, and are committed to continuing that work.” said DiPasquale. “Active federal agency participation through development of the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement is further integrating federal and state restoration efforts through the advancement of shared goals and outcomes.”

Highlights from the report include:

Restore Clean Water

2013 Progress

  • Results for 2010-2012 indicated 29 percent of the Chesapeake Bay was attaining water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, water clarity/underwater bay grasses and chlorophyll-a, with a goal to reach 60 percent by 2025. In addition, when measuring the reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution expected from management actions taken during a particular time period, in 2013 reductions were measured at 25 percent for nitrogen; 27 percent for phosphorous; 32 percent for sediment.
  • In FY13, conservation practices were established on more than 271,000 unique acres of high priority working lands in the Bay, bringing the total to approximately 1.3 million acres or 32 percent of the four million acre goal.

2014 Planned Actions

  • EPA will evaluate 2012-13 jurisdiction and federal milestones related to TMDL and WIP implementation and will announce new 2014-15 two-year milestones.
  • Management strategies will be developed to address outcomes on federal agency toxic contaminant reduction and research.

Recover Habitat

2013 Progress

  • In 2012, more than 2,200 acres of wetlands were established or re-established on agricultural lands in the Bay watershed.
  • The Habitat Goal Implementation Team (GIT), under the leadership of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, facilitated wetland-specific meetings with partners in four states, forming the basis for a successful grant proposal through the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation which will result in accelerated wetland restoration and protection targeting habitat valuable to wetland dependent species.
  • FWS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with state and NGO partners in the Fish Passage Workgroup, opened more than 200 miles of fish passage to benefit migratory and resident fish species.

2014 Planned Actions

  • FWS will work to develop a pilot prioritization of brook trout projects for Maryland in 2014.
  • USDA and EPA will hold a Leadership Summit on how partners can work to accelerate riparian forest buffer restoration

Sustain Fish and Wildlife

2013 Progress

  • Working with partners, NOAA funding supported placement of 200 reef balls and creation of a new oyster reef in Virginia’s Lafayette River. In Maryland, NOAA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers worked with the Department of Natural Resources to construct new oyster reef and plant baby oysters in Harris Creek, where work is now more 50 percent toward achieving 377 acres of restored oyster reef.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee developed a conservation threshold for male crabs which was implemented by the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) Sustainable Fisheries GIT. Adult female blue crab abundance in 2013 was estimated to be 147 million crabs, above the overfished threshold (70 million) but below the 215 million crab target.

2014 Planned Actions

  • Federal and other partners will continue reef construction and planting, develop oyster restoration plans, and start the planning process for restoring oysters in rivers and creeks in Maryland and Virginia.
  • NOAA will initiate coordinated studies of the ecosystem services provided by restored oyster reefs. NOAA and NOAA-funded research will focus on finfish utilization of reefs and nitrogen removal by oysters; preliminary results will be shared in 2015.

Conserve Land and Increase Public Access

2013 Progress

  • As of the end of 2011, more than 8 million acres of land have been permanently protected throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed, approximately 20 percent of the land in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
  • The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Public Access Plan’s action team of federal and state partners developed a process for updating the list of potential new public access sites and considered how to advance other high-priority plan topics including boat-in campsites, universal accessibility, and urban access. The number of sites added in 2013 was 30.

2014 Planned Actions

  • The National Park Service (NPS) will hold a workshop to consider the analysis and options outlined in the Business Planning Initiative consultants’ large landscape conservation “partnership analysis,” and identify focal areas representing large landscapes within the watershed that are iconic in their own right and are the focus of active collaborative conservation efforts.

Supporting Strategies

2013 Progress

  • Climate Change: Worked to improve climate change information for the Bay and its watershed, including finalizing a plan to establish a sentinel site network for assessing sea-level rise, a summary of long-term sea-level rise on the Chesapeake ecosystem, a study of vulnerability of coastal areas to sea-level rise and climate change and development of a web-based GIS interface tool.
  • Citizen Stewardship: The CBP Education Workgroup released a report highlighting best practices in K-12 environmental education.
  • Environmental Markets: The Inter-Agency Chesapeake Bay Environmental Markets Team (EMT) facilitated collaboration among 12 federal agencies in the development of infrastructure needed for enabling environmental markets to function effectively.
  • Strengthen Science: Provided support for all goals including: a new report on the extent and severity of toxic contaminants; seafloor mapping to support oyster restoration; options to address adverse impacts to the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed; and enhancing data supporting and improving the protected lands.

2014 Planned Actions

  • Climate Change: Collaborate with partners implementing projects through the Hurricane Sandy Coastal Recovery efforts to achieve goals to restore coastal wetlands, conserve lands, and address the potential effects of, and resiliency to, climate change.
  • Citizen Stewardship: Collaborate with partners to develop baseline metrics to establish and measure outcomes related to student participation in teacher-supported meaningful watershed educational experiences and related activities.
  • Environmental Markets: The EMT will release issue papers that address how differences in water quality trading tools and rules may impact trading efforts and identify mechanisms to reduce the complexity and administrative burden of operating trading programs.
  • Strengthen Science: Work with partners through the CBP Scientific, Technical Assessment, and Reporting STAR team, in coordination with the Scientific Technical Advisory Committee, to assess monitoring needs for outcomes in the new Bay agreement. 

While some are continuations of projects started in prior fiscal years, others are new initiatives building on preparatory work completed earlier. All are designed to increase the overall health of the Chesapeake Bay and achieving the goals set forth in the Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay. Many of these initiatives will be further amplified through the development of Management Strategies in support of the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement scheduled to be signed in June.

Agencies on the Federal Leadership Committee that are represented in these reports are the Environmental Protection Agency and the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior, and Transportation.

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