Posted on October 11, 2021
Representatives from the Chesapeake Bay watershed states, the District of Columbia, the Chesapeake Bay Commission (CBC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gathered recently to discuss the impacts of climate change on the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed — stretching from Cooperstown, N.Y., to their meeting location at the Brock Environmental Center in Virginia Beach, Va.
At the meeting, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and CBC Chair David Bulova joined their colleagues in signing a directive that commits the Chesapeake Bay Program to address the increasing threats of climate change in all aspects of the partnership’s work.
In particular, Bay Program partners will utilize their world-class scientific, modeling, monitoring and planning capabilities to prioritize the communities, working lands and habitats that are most vulnerable to the risks that a changing climate is bringing to the region.
“I strongly believe that by working together as a region in a bipartisan way, we can and we will continue to find real, commonsense solutions to address climate change and to protect the Chesapeake Bay,” said Hogan. “These challenges are too important to lose this opportunity to take action now.”
Prior to the public meeting where the directive was signed, members of the council, designees and guests joined Pamela Northam, First Lady of the Commonwealth of Virginia; and educators, including Imani Black, the founder of Minorities in Aquaculture; Melissa Deas, acting chief resiliency officer from the District of Columbia; and Mark Luckenbach, associate dean of research and advisory service at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) on-board a VIMS vessel for their own “Meaningful Watershed Educational Experience” — a term that is unique to the Chesapeake Bay Program in describing student environmental education about and in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
While onboard, participants were able to see first-hand an area that is considered to be ground-zero for climate change. The Virginia Beach and Hampton Roads region are experiencing one of the highest rates of sea-level rise and coastal flooding on the East Coast.
The Virginia Coastal Resilience Master Planning Framework notes that sea levels in the region have experienced more than 18 inches of relative sea-level rise in the past 100 years and are anticipated to continue to increase at an even faster rate in the future due to heavier rainfall and other extreme weather.
Members, designees and guests also viewed potential solutions to addressing climate impacts, including tree canopies, a living shoreline and an oyster restoration site.
Conversations also centered around climate inequity, reaffirming the council’s actions from the previous year, when they signed a statement prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion and justice in all of the Bay Program’s work. In the newly implemented Directive No. 21-1 Collective Action for Climate Change, the Bay Program specifically commits to prioritizing marginalized communities in providing necessary resources, including a focus on wetlands, tree canopy and environmental literacy, to adapt to the impacts from a changing climate.
“The Climate Directive we are signing today is the latest example of why this partnership is so important,” said Chesapeake Bay Commission Chair David Bulova. “Collective action allows us to apply the best science possible so that we can understand and mitigate the impacts of a changing climate and prioritize resources toward our most vulnerable communities. We need to do to this if we want a more resilient landscape and watershed.”
In June 2014, the Executive Council signed the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, with the vision of 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.
Established more than 37 years ago, the Chesapeake Executive Council is responsible for guiding the policy agenda and setting conservation and restoration goals for the regional, watershed partnership, the Chesapeake Bay Program. Members include the governors of Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, the mayor of the District of Columbia, the chair of the CBC, and the administrator of the EPA on behalf of the federal government. Virginia Governor Ralph Northam currently chairs the Chesapeake Executive Council, which will next meet in Richmond, Va., in December 2021.
“Over the past year, we’ve seen even more land preserved along the Nanticoke River, leading to the opening of new parks, including Nanticoke Crossing, and expanded public access to our waterways,” said Delaware Gov. John Carney in a statement. “With continued water quality improvement projects buoyed by passage in our state of the Clean Water for Delaware Act and sustainable watershed practices, our residents and visitors are finding more recreational and economic opportunities throughout Delaware’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.”