Op-Ed: A Chesapeake Bay Commentary by Philip Hoon


I am an avid reader of the Washington Post but with all due respect take exception to the fatalistic sub-headline of its March 22 editorial that “The last, best hope to revive the estuary is now imperiled by the Trump administration.”

It is, of course, most unfortunate that the Trump administration has proposed a termination of Chesapeake Bay restoration funding.

But while there is good reason to contest that proposal as it makes its way through the Congressional budget process, the reality is that there are likely to be some, perhaps very significant, cuts to that funding. So now is the time to rise to the occasion. . . and begin to prepare for the stark reality ahead.

To that end, it seems appropriate to me that perhaps now is the time for private sector organizations and initiatives in the primary states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed – Maryland & Virginia – to collaborate in a common mission, and free of a organizational ego, with those in the secondary states – Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia & Delaware– in trying to work with state governments to accomplish the shared regional goal of a clean and healthy Bay.

In other words, let’s not cry in our beer. After all, remember the challenges of The Greatest Generation and how it responded to the challenges of the times. . .

I am not a scientist, but from all that has been published, it does not seem that more study of the problems of the Bay is needed. It is clear that excess nitrogen, phosphorous and siltation are the primary culprits. So let’s get to work.

I believe that I read that annual Federal funding for the Chesapeake Bay is currently $105 million. While that is not an insignificant amount, perhaps it should be put in perspective.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 18 million people live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Therefore, the per capita cost of replacing that $105 million Federal Government funding is $5.83 per person per year . . . that is less than 2¢/day.

And while we are at it, there is a view of many that the millions of Federal dollars spent over the past several decades have been ineffectively applied to accomplish the Bay restoration goal. After all, many of its tributaries are impaired so it is a bit disingenuous to assert that the Bay is really improving as it should be.

Another interesting idea might be to request Washington to designate the Chesapeake Bay as a national park so that it would receive the protections and assistance that such a special status would afford. I am not sure of all the implications of that, and do not know whether the Trump administration has proposed budget cuts to our great national parks. But all in all, I would think that the Chesapeake Bay might qualify to be one of the first new national parks in the 21st Century.

At times like this, I think that “out of the box thinking” is needed. So while these ideas might not be viable, the reality may be that something like them needs to be pursued if our cherished Chesapeake Bay is to be preserved.

So let’s roll up our sleeves and do what the Washington bureaucrats have not been able to do. After all, we who live in its watershed are the ones who have the greatest opportunity to enjoy the mighty Chesapeake Bay.

We are that “last best hope” for the Chesapeake Bay, and there is work to be done.

Philip Hoon is a private attorney in Chestertown, Maryland.

Letters to Editor

  1. Well said, Mr. Hoon. And to that effect, I hope many who live on and around the bay, will join us, ChesapeakeBaySavers.com, at our annual golf tournament on May 12th at Queenstown Harbor. Chesapeake BaySavers is a family run, non-profit, which introduces legislative efforts in the state capitol, places oysters spats in Baltimore Harbor and many other areas, provides educational programs to middle school children and so much more. The money we raise goes directly to our cause to protect the Bay for many generations to come. Our overhead consists of one staff person. The rest of us who work for this organization, are volunteers. Hope to see you out there!
    Kat Conley

  2. Karen Smtih says:

    I contribute to the Chesapeake Bay Fund every year when I do my MD income tax return – and much more than $5.82. It’s painless, and others should make a practice of doing this on a regular basis. Perhaps having the money in the hands of the MD comptroller instead of the U.S. government would provide a more efficient use of it on behalf of the Bay.

  3. Matt Daley says:

    Well said indeed!

  4. Marge Fallaw says:

    It should be noted that, in general, Marylanders already pay a per-residence Bay Restoration Fund fee (colloquially known as the “flush tax”) of $5.00 per month (originally $2.50/mo.), via their water-sewer bills if they use municipal or other off-site systems, or by another means for residences with their own wells and septic systems. Details are here on the Comptroller’s website:

  5. John Michael Kramer says:

    A national park (Merriam-Webster): an area of special scenic, historical, or scientific importance set aside and maintained by a national government and in the U.S. by an act of Congress.

    Really…do we want the Chesapeake maintained by the US Government?

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