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Cleaning Up Farm Runoff Crucial to Chesapeake Bay

A federal court has cleared the way for a six state plan to clean the Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
A federal court has cleared the way for a six state plan to clean the Chesapeake Bay. Photo courtesy National Park Service.
July 9, 2015

HARPERS FERRY, W.Va. – A federal court victory has cleared the way for what conservationists say needs to happen on farms within the Chesapeake Bay watershed to help meet the goals of a Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan.

A federal appeals court ruling this week reaffirmed the legality of the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, which spans six states and the District of Columbia.

Chesapeake Bay Foundation president Will Baker says the current bay blueprint plan offers "real hope" for a healthier bay, along with potential economic benefits of $22 billion per year.

While dealing with farm runoff will "take a lot of work," Baker says the result should end up helping farmers.

"While agriculture has the most to do, the good news here is getting a pound of pollution from the agricultural flow is the least expensive option," says Baker.

National farm and developer lobbying groups have sued to stop the federal and multi-state coordination, describing it as a pattern for over-regulation.

Baker says cleaning up farm runoff means reducing fertilizer and livestock waste – and federal and state assistance is available to make that happen. He says adding fences, trees and buffers to protect streams, and reducing fertilizer use, makes sense for farmers.

"If you're applying less fertilizer and getting the same return, that's going to be good for water quality, good for the quality of your well water, and it's going to be good for your bottom line," he says.

West Virginia is considered one of the bay's "headwater states," and is home to some of the 150 major rivers and streams that are part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV