A unique two-year study is set in motion that will tackle the best path forward to achieve overall restoration goals in the nation’s largest estuary – the Chesapeake Bay.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District, has signed a Watershed Assessment Cost-Sharing Agreement with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) to begin work on the Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Water Resources and Restoration Plan.
“This plan will complement the ongoing efforts of many who are working toward the collective goal to restore the Bay and surrounding watershed and will also serve as a pathway for future restoration partnerships,” said Dave Robbins, project manager, Baltimore District.
The Chesapeake Bay watershed spans 64,000 square miles and encompasses portions of New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Delaware; the Commonwealths of Pennsylvania and Virginia; and the District of Columbia.
Through the Chesapeake Bay Program, a variety of local, state and federal agencies, as well as public and private organizations across the watershed have committed resources through programs and projects to help restore the Bay.
“The purpose of this plan is to identify viable restoration actions across the watershed using resources from multiple partners,” said Col. Ed Chamberlayne, commander, Baltimore District. “We want to reduce and streamline similar efforts already taking place across the region and implement projects that are needed in problem areas where none currently exist.”
Due to a variety of factors, significant environmental problems have developed in the watershed to include impaired stream health, fish-passage blockages, loss of critical habitat for threatened and endangered species, and shoreline erosion.
The comprehensive plan will outline ecological needs, problems, and opportunities in the watershed, while relying heavily on existing information such as the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Agreement work plans, as well as new digital land-cover data provided by NFWF.
According to NFWF’s web site, they are one of the world’s largest conservation grant-makers.
The Corps will contribute 75 percent of the approximate $2.8 million cost share for the comprehensive plan, and NFWF will contribute the other 25 percent entirely from in-kind services (non-monetary contributions).
“The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation has been an advocate and catalyst for restoration actions in the Bay,” said Dan Bierly, chief, Civil Project Development Branch, Baltimore District. “This plan presents a unique opportunity for a federal agency like the Corps to partner with a non-governmental organization like the foundation, and we are grateful that they were able to identify opportunities to leverage their resources to help us.”
NFWF will be working with other organizations to obtain data and other relevant information to be included in the technical analyses needed for the plan. This includes high-resolution land-cover datasets that will be used in geospatial analyses leading to the identification and evaluation of problem areas and opportunities across the region.
The end product of the comprehensive plan will be a report submitted to Congress that documents analyses completed and also makes recommendations for actions that the Corps or other federal, state, and local jurisdictions can undertake. At least one project will be established for each of the states, commonwealths and the District of Columbia.
“This watershed study will result in a plan that provides a single, comprehensive, and integrated restoration guide to achieve meaningful environmental benefits to the Chesapeake Bay,” said Robbins.
For more information on the Chesapeake Bay Comprehensive Water Resources and Restoration Plan, visit: http://www.nab.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/ChesapeakeBayComprehensivePlan.aspx