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Volume 1, Number 1
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Thinking Big, Thinking New
Concrete Actions to Foster Change

Striped Bass Despite model results that suggest a 15 percent reduction in nitrogen entering the estuary between 1985-2000, monitoring data from the Bay's largest tributaries in 2001 revealed no discernable trends in nutrient loads. According to the 2001 Annual Report from the Chesapeake Bay Commission: "New analyses showed that a doubling, if not tripling, of current nutrient control efforts is needed to reach the C2K [Chesapeake 2000] goals. Roughly translated, restoring a 'clean Bay' will require reducing an additional 120 million pounds of nitrogen in the next decade, above and beyond the nearly 50 million pound reduction achieved over the past two decades. Clearly , business as usual will not work."

In order to make a real impact on reducing the flow of nutrients into the Bay, we will have to think big, both on the supply side (sources of nutrients) and on the demand side (uptake of nutrients).

Supply Side

  • Continuing implementation of biological nutrient reduction (BNR) at wastewater treatment plants throughout the watershed. (The Chesapeake Bay Program predicts that by 2003, almost 100 major municipal wastewater treatment facilities will have BNR , treating about 63% of the wastewater flow in the region.)

  • Full implementation of nutrient management plans on virtually all farmland in the watershed. (According to the Chesapeake Bay Commission, only 35 percent of the Bay's agricultural lands are currently under nutrient management.)

  • Aggressive installation of limited impact development (LID) and stormwater control techniques, including rain gardens, wet and dry retention ponds, grassed waterways, rain barrels and porous driveways.

Demand Side

  • Cover crops on farmland to take up nutrients before they can leave the farm field.

  • Extensive underwater grass beds that, like cover crops, can take up nutrients in the water, and perhaps out-compete algae for nitrogen and phosphorus.

  • Large oyster reef systems that will increase not only the filtering capacity of oysters, but also of all the many organisms that make their homes on reef structures, from barnacles to anemones to sea squirts.

Large-scale projects already underway, such as the breaking up of Baltimore's Memorial Stadium - about 10,000 cubic yards of it - for planting on the Gale's Lump oyster bar, point the way toward bold new efforts to make a real difference.

With the new criteria for Bay water quality detailed in the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement the focus will finally fall on outcomes: more oxygen, less algae and clearer water. It will take all we can do on both the supply and demand side to make the water clear again.

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