An expose in today's Washington Post tells how federal and state officials for years have failed to gather the political will to save the Chesapeake Bay, instead feeding the public false information about "progress" in the cleanup effort in order to maintain their funding, to the tune of $6 billion so far.
Officials have long known how rampant shoreline development and runoff from farms, storm drains and industry were destroying the Bay. They've even had the science to solve the problem. But they just never had the guts to tackle the issue head-on. Goals for curbing pollution have never been met. Instead, state environmental agencies and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were painting a rosy picture of the Bay's health using phony computer models rather than actual data. The truth was, the EPA didn't even have the equipment in place to actually monitor what was happening in the Bay.
Recently Maryland and Virginia officials asked the Bush administration to declare the Bay's crab industry a disaster in order to scare up federal funds to help out-of-work watermen. The Bay's once thriving oyster population has long been in shambles, almost non-existent. Each summer pollution spawns huge "dead zones" in the Bay where the water is starved of oxygen and lifeless.
"It'll always be beautiful," said Bernie Fowler, 84, a former waterman, county commissioner and state senator from Calvert County, who has argued for cleaning the bay since 1970. "But there's nothing out there living."
Environmentalists and watermen have threatened to take the EPA to court to enforce cleanup goals. Otherwise, it's business as usual.