Virginia’s celebration of Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week last Saturday at Mason Neck State Park was held under gorgeous blue skies. Attendees took boat rides, met Oyster Shucking Champion Deborah Pratt (she told me that, in competition, she could shuck 24 oysters in two minutes), toured educational displays about Bay restoration, and participated in the “Backs to the Bay” photo op. The photo op highlighted, literally, the fact that most of the pollution in the Bay emanates from the land. With our backs to the water, we are reminded how centuries of human activity and development on land have affected the once-pristine Bay.
Chesapeake Bay Awareness Week coincided with the annual meeting of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council (EC), chaired for the past two years by Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. At Thursday’s meeting in the Maryland State Capitol Building, the gavel was passed to the incoming chair, Governor Larry Hogan of Maryland. As a Virginia member of the Local Government Advisory Committee (LGAC) to the EC, I was privileged to attend the meeting which, for the first time in many years, had a lot of good news to report. Underwater grasses in the Bay, important to fisheries habitat, surpassed the 2017 restoration target; female blue crabs increased 31 percent to 254 million of the tasty critters; and nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment loads had significant reductions in the 2015-16 period.
The good news reflects 30 years of heavy lifting by the federal, state, and local partners to restore the Bay, which still is at a critical tipping point. The EC’s Executive Summary Report noted that the watershed is resilient, vibrant, and healthy in many ways, but it also is out of balance in others. Water quality improved, but it still is far below what is needed to maintain a stable aquatic habitat. We need to keep working on oyster restoration, planting forest buffers, and reducing pollution from the land. The EC, unanimously, also adopted a resolution demanding continued full federal funding ($73 million) for the Chesapeake Bay Program, which has been targeted for zeroing out by the Trump Administration.
Restoring the Chesapeake Bay truly is a Herculean task, but after many years of effort, and dollars, the Bay ecosystem is responding positively. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels, but a time to redouble our partnership efforts and make even more progress. It took 300 years for the Bay to decline from when Captain John Smith first sailed on it, and it will take more than a couple of decades to reclaim its previous glory. Our investment is sound, and the 64,000 square mile watershed and its citizens will reap the benefits of our work, and those of generations to come.
“Kids don’t fly” is a campaign to remind parents and caregivers to keep children away from windows and balconies when they play. Tragically, a toddler died last week when he fell from a third-floor screened window, while jumping on a bed with a sibling. Screens keep out bugs, but cannot withstand forceful pushes, even from a toddler. Let’s keep our kids safe!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor, in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be emailed at [email protected]