The Chesapeake Bay Program is the unique regional partnership that's been directing and conducting the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay since the signing of the historic Chesapeake Bay Agreement of 1983. The Bay Program partners include the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia; the District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, representing the federal government; and participating advisory groups.
As the largest estuary in the United States and one of the most productive in the world, the Chesapeake Bay was this nation's first estuary targeted for restoration and protection. In the late 1970s, scientific and estuarine research on the Bay pinpointed three areas requiring immediate attention: nutrient over-enrichment, dwindling underwater Bay grasses and toxic pollution. Once the initial research was completed, the Bay Program evolved as the means to restore this exceptionally valuable resource.
Since its inception in 1983, the Bay Program's highest priority has been the restoration of the Bay's living resources- its finfish, shellfish, Bay grasses, and other aquatic life and wildlife. Improvements include fisheries and habitat restoration, recovery of Bay grasses, nutrient and toxic reductions, and significant advances in estuarine science.
Considered a national and international model for estuarine research and restoration programs, the Bay Program is a partnership led by the Chesapeake Executive Council. The members of the Executive Council are the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The Executive Council meets annually to establish the policy direction for the Bay Program.
In the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement, the Executive Council set a goal to reduce the nutrients nitrogen and phosphorous entering the Bay by 40% by 2000. Achieving a 40% nutrient reduction will ultimately improve the oxygen levels in Bay waters and encourage aquatic life to flourish. In 1992, the Bay Program partners agreed to continue the 40% reduction goal beyond 2000 as well as to attack nutrients at their source - upstream in the Bay's tributaries. As a result, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia began developing tributary strategies to achieve nutrient reduction targets.
On June 28, 2000, the Chesapeake Bay Program partners signed the new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, which will guide the next decade of restoration and protection efforts throughout the Bay watershed. The agreement commits to protecting and restoring living resources, vital habitats and water quality of the Bay and its watershed.
West Virginia Joins the Chesapeake Bay Program
June 18, 2002
To better protect and restore local water quality in the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers and the Chesapeake Bay, on June 18, 2002, West Virginia Governor Bob Wise officially committed West Virginia as a "headwater partner" in the Chesapeake Bay Program- the federal-state partnership directing the protection and restoration of America 's largest estuary. This Memorandum of Understanding, created a seven state partnership, and reaffirmed West Virginia's obligation to voluntarily maintaining and protecting the Potomac River watershed.
" West Virginia 's involvement in the Bay restoration highlights the need for expanded partnerships between the Bay states and their upstream neighbors to reduce the amount of nutrients and sediment flowing into the Bay" said Donald Welsh, mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "With West Virginia 's assistance, we hope to improve the quality of the water flowing into the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, and further downstream into the Chesapeake Bay."
Since West Virginia became a "headwaters partner," we have been an active participant in numerous Chesapeake Bay committees, subcommittees, and workgroups. These groups established water quality objectives for all seven jurisdictions involved in the Chesapeake Bay Program. West Virginia spent one year developing its tributary strategy and anticipates achievement of these objectives by 2010.
In order for the Water Quality Laboratory to contribute data to the Chesapeake Bay Program, additional monitoring parameters were added to more accurately portray trends and loads. The addition of Nitrite, TKN, Total Suspended Solids, Suspended Sediment Concentration and occasional sand/fine splits allows West Virginia to comply with sampling protocol set forth by the Non Tidal Water Quality Workgroup. The new parameters, as well as the existing nutrient analysis, will be applied to samples collected from drains to the North Branch of the Potomac River, the mouth of the South Branch, the Potomac River main stem and its direct tributaries. These samples will be collected monthly through at least 2010.