Chesapeake Executive Council meeting held to discuss progress

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam takes over as chair as region’s leaders address bay restoration.

August 18, 2020

3 Min Read
Chesapeake Executive Council meeting held to discuss progress

The Chesapeake Executive Council -- comprised of the governors from Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and New York; the mayor of Washington, D.C., and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission -- met Tuesday to discuss the state of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort.

Established 37 years ago, the Chesapeake Executive Council is responsible for guiding the policy agenda and setting conservation and restoration goals for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional watershed partnership. The Chesapeake Bay Program is governed by the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, which was signed by the Executive Council in 2014. It envisions fostering an environmentally and economically sustainable watershed with clean water, abundant life, conserved lands and access to the water, a vibrant cultural heritage and a diversity of engaged citizens and stakeholders.

In what has become the new norm, members met virtually for the first time to discuss the challenges the COVID-19 pandemic has brought upon their respective jurisdictions and how continued investment in bay restoration can be used to help the region's economy and public health.

The Choose Clean Water Coalition said this year’s meeting is particularly crucial, because some states in the region continue to fall behind in their clean water goals and as the watershed -- and country -- grapple with the immediate impacts of COVID-19 and work to address systemic racism in the country.

Choose Clean Water Coalition director Kristin Reilly said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has left much destruction and uncertainty in its wake. People have lost family and friends, jobs and income, and local businesses are struggling to recover or just survive. The restoration effort was not spared from impact, as the difficult but necessary choices that each bay jurisdiction made during this shutdown resulted in delays to on-the-ground restoration projects and critical monitoring programs. Now, our local and state governments are looking at an uncertain fiscal future, which could have long-term impacts to the restoration effort as a whole.”

In addition, the 2025 deadline for cleaning up the bay is fast approaching, and the most recent progress reports show, some states are still lagging, Reilly said, noting that Pennsylvania’s progress has fallen short and that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to hold them accountable. … We would like to remind EPA that their role in this restoration effort is to hold the states to the commitments they have made to clean their local rivers, streams and, ultimately, the Chesapeake Bay.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan reflected on his past three years as chair of the Executive Council before symbolically handing over the reins to Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, who was unanimously elected by the other members to succeed Hogan.

“In my past three years as chair, we have worked together to implement real, bipartisan, commonsense solutions to the challenges facing the Chesapeake Bay, and the results speak for themselves,” Hogan stated. “Maryland remains fully committed to this partnership as we continue making strides to preserve this national treasure.”

“I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay, and I am excited to take on the role of chair of the Executive Council as we continue our critical restoration work,” Northam said. “As my first official act as chair, I call on the council’s principal staff to immediately begin work on the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice goals adopted today. I look forward to working closely with my colleagues to build a cleaner, healthier and more sustainable bay.”

The "Statement in Support of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Justice" commits the Chesapeake Bay Program to strengthen and improve diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in all areas of the partnership, recruit and retain staff and volunteers who reflect the diversity of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, foster a culture of inclusion and respect across all partner organizations and ensure that the benefits of its science, restoration and partnership programs are distributed equitably without disproportionate impacts on vulnerable populations.

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