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Posted at 4:30 PM ET, 05/12/2010

Is salvation for Chesapeake Bay finally at hand?

By Peter Galuszka
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

After decades of neglect and frustration, May 11 and 12 might go down in history as the days Chesapeake Bay finally started to get cleaned up.

On May 11, a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency was settled by a host of groups interested in the bay, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, watermen's groups from Maryland and Virginia, and legislators from both states.

On May 12, the Obama administration announced its final version of federal initiatives to get off the dime and start cleaning up the Chesapeake.

Taken together, the lawsuit settlement and the Obama policies could have far-reaching effects. They would take a snapshot of all the pollutants that flow into the estuary, limit and require set-asides for stormwater runoff from new housing subdivisions, and toughen pollution limits from large hog and poultry operations that can produce enormous levels of waste, Chuck Epes, spokesperson for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-Virginia, told me.

The sad part of the lawsuit is that it basically forces the EPA to do a job that it was given in 1972. The agency is supposed to enforce the Clean Water Act, but in 38 years, it hasn't exactly done a bang-up job.

Not only have populations of crabs, fish and oysters been regularly depleted, oxygen-deprived "dead zones" show up in the summer months near the mouths of the Potomac, Rappahannock and York rivers.

Fed up with EPA inaction, the plaintiffs filed their lawsuit in 2008. The administration of President George W. Bush was so out of touch with environmental issues so close to the capital that it essentially ignored the lawsuit.

President Obama promised better, and the settlement is a result. The good news: The lawsuit means there is a legal basis to go after the EPA if it doesn't do what it is supposed to. The bad news: The settlement will mean millions in new expenses in lean times. And after nearly four decades of the bay being ignored, one wonders whether this latest deal will produce much. All earlier efforts involving Maryland, the District, Virginia and Pennsylvania have failed.

Peter Galuszka blogs at Bacon's Rebellion . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By Peter Galuszka  | May 12, 2010; 4:30 PM ET
Categories:  Chesapeake Bay, D.C., D.C. politics, HotTopic, Local blog network, Maryland, Va. Politics, Virginia, economy, environment, transportation, weather, wildlife  
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Comments

The Cheasapeake Bay is not a mere bay. It is a historic site. It is at the battle of the Cheasapeake that the U.S made a vital step
towards defeating the British. The battle of the Chasapeake opened the way to the battle
of Yorktown and the birth of a great nation.

Posted by: jeanpierregamet | May 12, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

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