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January 23, 2024

Bay Journal — by Karl Blankenship — January 23, 2024

"...Understanding the actual effectiveness of BMPs is critical to the Bay cleanup effort. It’s equally important to the farmers who are continually called upon to spend time and money installing them on behalf of the Bay. And it’s important to policymakers who help cover the costs with public funds.

In the last decade alone, state and federal agencies have spent more than $2 billion on programs to help farmers in the Chesapeake region install conservation practices. And spending is dramatically increasing as the 2025 deadline for the Bay’s cleanup goals approaches.

Officials in the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program have acknowledged they will miss the nutrient pollution goal by a wide margin. But it is difficult to know whether current programs targeting agricultural areas — the largest source of nutrients to the Bay — are capable of ever reaching their targets or have even made significant progress.

'We lack a coordinated effort to further monitor, interpret and produce findings about the relation[ship] between agricultural conservation practices and water quality response,' wrote officials from several federal agencies in a December 2021 report.

Such a conclusion shouldn’t be a surprise because the same shortcoming has been identified for decades.

The good news is that the Bay Program this year will launch an effort to better assess the impact that BMPs have on streams in small watersheds. But it will likely take about a decade to know the answer..."

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