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The importance of the Chesapeake Bay’s health cannot be overstated

After we have invested almost $20 billion to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, it’s dismaying that the bay’s health is declining for the first time in a decade [“Rainy year degrades health of Chesapeake Bay,” Metro, Jan. 8].

Runoff from farms and development — washing nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and other chemicals into the bay — is one of the principal culprits. Yet if, as it has proposed, the Environmental Protection Agency cuts Clean Water Act protections to wetlands and small streams, which naturally filter runoff pollution, the bay’s health will suffer. On the Eastern Shore alone, for example, more than 34,000 acres of wetlands called Delmarva potholes could lose federal protections, opening them up to agricultural conversion or other development, according to a recent report by the Environmental Integrity Project.

To continue to make progress cleaning up the bay and other waterways, the EPA must maintain the Clean Water Act’s long-standing protections for wetlands and streams.

Ed Hopkins, Washington

I think it is safe to say that the Chesapeake Bay nonprofit community took a collective sigh of relief after reading the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s State of the Bay report. While a D-plus is not something that we are striving for, nor are happy about, the reality is that we all thought it might be much worse.

Last year, this region saw record rainfall, with Washington and other cities in the watershed recording their wettest years on record. Pennsylvania received so much rain that the Conowingo Dam’s gates were opened multiple times, releasing incredible amounts of water filled with debris and nutrient and sediment pollution into the bay. However, despite all of this, the bay’s health score dropped by only one point. This is what we have been hoping for — that the bay would not only be restored but be resilient, too. This is especially important as our region experiences an increase in intensity and frequency of major storms because of climate change.

This report demonstrates that the work we are doing for the Chesapeake is making a difference and that now is not the time to slow down.

Chanté Coleman, Annapolis

The writer is director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition.

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