Bay agreement gets stronger (Editorial)

(July 1, 2014) After 14 years, the governors of the states lying within the watershed of the Chesapeake Bay have signed a new agreement.
It is designed, of course, to reinvigorate the effort to clean up the Bay.
Also, of course, it got a thumbs-down from the region’s waterkeepers even before the ink was dry.
There are some new tactics in the agreement. It will require state officials to submit plans in 90 days on how they specifically plan to fight pollution in the nation’s largest estuary. Those plans will be due Sept. 15.
That’s a departure from previous agreements by states in the watershed that environmentalists say will help boost accountability in how well states meet goals.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley hosted the signing ceremony that included the governors of Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania and the mayor of Washington, D.C. (The governors of West Virginia and New York, which are part of the six-state watershed, were unable to attend.)
The agreement, an update to the last one signed 14 years ago, marks the first time states in the Bay watershed have pledged to work toward goals beyond water quality.
This agreement includes plans for addressing environmental literacy, toxic contaminants and climate change.
“We have made a big shift when it comes to the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay,” O’Malley said. “Instead of praying for a better result 20 years from now, we are taking better actions today in order to achieve better results tomorrow. It’s about actionable goals. It’s about measureable goals.”
Despite all of that, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, a coalition of 19 independent local organizations, expressed serious concerns the new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement fails to put enough specific measures in place to assure meaningful improvement to the Bay and rivers.
Waterkeepers Chesapeake admits the new agreement “now includes some laudable new goals, such as reducing toxic contaminants, and addressing environmental justice and climate change” but says it allows the jurisdictions “to opt out of any of these goals and provides no accountability for jurisdictions that fail to meet the goals they do choose to adopt.”
The waterkeepers are a restless bunch.
They will keep pecking away at all Bay clean-up efforts until they can wade knee deep into the water and see their feet.
But the anchorman of the effort does see progress.
William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said the new agreement was noteworthy for requiring states that have signed to submit plans within 90 days as to how they are going to implement management promises.
“That’s critical, and we’ve never had that before in one of these agreements,” Baker said.