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Chesapeake Bay -- Unified Plan

11/05/1998
Carol M. Browner, Administrator
Environmental Protection Agency
Remarks Prepared for Delivery
Chesapeake Bay -- Unified Plan

                   Fort McNair/Washington, DC
                        November 5, 1998
                               
                               
     Thank you Mike.

     Welcome everyone. Thank you all for coming today -- Mike, Colonel Wilkerson, all my federal partners, and Representative Holmes Norton, an unwavering advocate for the Anacostia River. Also, a special warm welcome to Senator Sarbanes, a true and tireless champion for the Chesapeake Bay.

     Today, we gather here -- 20 members of the federal family -- to stand united in our commitment to restore and protect the magnificent Chesapeake Bay, this precious, vital, national treasure.

     Once we complete the signing of this historic document -- the Chesapeake Ecosystem Unified Plan -- more federal agencies than ever before will be working together to fulfill the Clinton/Gore Administration's promise of a cleaner, safer, healthier Chesapeake Bay.

     This new, strengthened plan means real progress for the people and communities of the Chesapeake Bay -- 50 new actions to clean up and restore the bay. This means more resources and technical assistance, new programs, policies, and partnerships with businesses, state and local governments, and communities.

     Dare I say, this truly is a watershed event -- a vast effort for a vast and tremendous ecosystem.

     On my right is the Anacostia River. On my left, the Potomac. They join here and flow 100 miles, picking up water from hundreds of other tributaries on the way to the Chesapeake Bay. As we look upon these waters, we are reminded that yes, we have made great progress since we passed the Clean Water Act some 25 years ago.

    We've reduced releases of toxic pollution by 67 percent, even exceeding our goal, and four years ahead of schedule. Nitrogen and phosphorus pollution -- which leads to harmful algal blooms and outbreaks of pathogens -- is on the decline. Bay grasses are on the rebound. Bald eagles once again soar over the Chesapeake Bay. They're so plentiful, they're off the endangered species list. Fisheries are beginning to thrive again. Today we have record numbers of striped bass in the bay, and shad are making a slow, but steady recovery.

     Yes, we have made great strides. But any oysterman can tell you that we still have far to go. Anyone who has been told not to eat the fish of the Anacostia River knows that we cannot sit back and relax. Serious pollution challenges remain.

     Toxic pollution contaminates the Anacostia. Polluted runoff continues to plague many of the Chesapeake Bay tributaries. Pesticides, nitrogen, phosphorous, and harmful micro-organisms like pfiesteria continue to threaten water quality and our health. This pollution threatens oysters, blue crabs and other fisheries. It threatens our communities, and our livelihoods.

     Almost a year ago, President Clinton announced the Clean Water Action Plan -- a bold, new blueprint to address these threats to waters all across the nation.  

     This plan will help finish the job of restoring and cleaning up our nation's rivers, lakes, and coastal waters by building partnerships that will get the job done region by region, community by community, watershed by watershed. Because this is the way that makes the most sense for today's difficult challenges.

     The action we take this morning for the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most significant steps we've taken under the Clean Water Action Plan to restore a watershed of this size, and this importance.

     Under this agreement:

     We will take new steps -- in partnership with state and local governments -- to protect
     public health from pfiesteria outbreaks, and other harmful algal blooms.

     We will improve water quality and protect fish habitat with the first-ever wetlands
     restoration program on federal lands around the bay. Our new commitment is a net gain of
     100 acres of wetlands every year on federal lands.

     We will replant 200 miles of streamside buffer forests, remove obstacles to fish migration,
     and open up federal lands for the first time to create reef habitat for oysters and other fish.

     We will initiate a new program to clean up the Anacostia by better controlling polluted
          runoff from federal facilities in the river's watershed.     We will protect Chesapeake Bay communities with a new plan to locate federal buildings
     in abandoned properties, rather than pristine greenfields. And we will build new
     partnerships with businesses to help them operate in ways that protect the bay.

     These are just a few of ways these 20 federal agencies will work with each other, with communities, and with states and cities to restore the Chesapeake Bay to full health.

     We have made great progress for the Bay. But to finish the job -- no one agency can do it alone. No one state can do it alone. No one community can do it alone. Indeed, the only hope we have for the bay is partnership -- people from many walks of life, many perspectives, many disciplines -- working arm in arm, shoulder to shoulder to get the job done.

     The Clinton/Gore Administration is committed to partnership, to good stewardship, to strong leadership in the nation's efforts for a clean, safe, healthy Chesapeake Bay. The American people deserve no less. Our children deserve no less.

     Thank you.


     Now before we continue with the program, I would like to invite Jeffrey Sutton, NASA's Associate Administrator for Management Systems and Facilities, to the podium. NASA is our newest federal partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program, and we are signing a separate agreement making this new partnership official. Mr. Sutton...

     
     And now I'd like to introduce one of the Chesapeake Bay's most steadfast and loyal friends, Senator Sarbanes. While we have been rallying the federal family for the bay, Senator Sarbanes has been rallying the Congress -- successfully passing new legislation to safeguard the Bay, its tributaries, its natural and cultural heritage. Thank you, Senator Sarbanes, for all that you have done for Maryland, for the Chesapeake, for the nation. Senator Sarbanes...