EPA also announced in the May 11 Federal Register its final federal strategy for the Chesapeake Bay, implementing the president’s Executive Order 13508. Many of the commitments in the settlement agreement are reflected in the strategy. The purpose of the executive order is “to protect and restore the health, heritage, natural resources, and social and economic value of the nation’s largest estuarine ecosystem and the natural sustainability of its watershed.” To bring the full weight of the federal government to address the Chesapeake’s challenges, the executive order established the Federal Leadership Committee (FLC) for the Chesapeake Bay, which is chaired by the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and includes senior representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation. The FLC was charged with developing a new strategy for protection and restoration.
The strategy includes using rigorous regulations to restore clean water, implementing new conservation practices on 4 million acres of farms, conserving 2 million acres of undeveloped land and rebuilding oysters in 20 tributaries of the bay. To increase accountability, federal agencies will establish milestones every two years for actions to make progress toward measurable environmental goals. These will support and complement the states’ two-year milestones. Several overarching approaches in the strategy include:
- Short-term action: To accelerate the pace of restoration and protection, many actions occur in the next few years, and many of the actions are “on-the-ground” and “in-the-water” all around the Chesapeake watershed.
- Supporting local efforts: The strategy is designed to directly support the restoration activities of local governments, watershed groups, county conservation districts, landowners and citizens.
- Benefiting economies and jobs: Many actions will provide economic benefits, including conservation of working farms, expanded oyster aquaculture, support for conservation corps programs and green jobs, and development of an environmental marketplace for selling, buying and trading credits for pollution reductions.
- Targeting of resources: Agencies will be aggressively targeting resources where they can have the most impact – areas with the most pollution and potential for runoff, with the highest potential for restoring fish and wildlife, and with habitats and lands most in need of protection.