Leaving the Chesapeake Bay polluted will cost more than a new plan to clean it, according to a new report.
The Environmental Protection Agency recently released a draft of its Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) plan, which sets hard limits on how much nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment will be allowed in the Chesapeake Bay. Since the EPA’s “pollution diet” has been released, the Hampton Roads Planning Commission District, a regional organization representing the area’s 16 local governments, shared a cost estimate for the EPA’s proposal that puts the Historic Triangle’s combined annual bill at $85 million each year. Other organizations have also argued that the plan will be unaffordable.
The Cheasapeake Bay Foundation released a report Monday to counter the nay-sayers who claim the new cleanup plan is too expensive. Based on data collected from a variety of sources, the CBF argues that restoring the Bay will generate thousands of new jobs and help the seafood industry thrive. Continuing on the current path will cost the Bay region millions of dollars in lost jobs and income which will be exacerbated unless Bay cleanup efforts are accelerated, according to the report.
“The Chesapeake Bay was once one of the most productive and profitable estuaries in the world, but pollution now threatens to kill the golden goose,” said Ann Jennings, CBF Virginia executive director. “One has only to look at what has happened to the Bay’s oyster and crab fisheries to see that dirty water is a job killer. Bay pollution is not only an ecological disaster; it’s an economic one, too.”
According to the report, every $1 of funding invested in agricultural best management practices (a big part of the TMDL plan) would generate $1.56 in economic activity, and every dollar spent on sewer infrastructure investment increases private output by $6.35.
Upgrades to sewage treatment plants have created hundreds of jobs and could create thousands more, the CBF says, which would add millions of dollars to the regional economy. Cuts to clean-water infrastructure funding, conversely, would lead to job losses, they argue.
Also, for every dollar spent on source-water protection, $27 dollars are saved in water treatment costs.
The commercial seafood industry will also benefit from reducing Bay pollution. Commercial fishing in Maryland and Virginia created $2 billion in sales, $1 billion in income, and more than 41,000 jobs, while saltwater recreational fishing contributed $1.6 billion in sales and about 13,000 jobs, according to the report.
Between 1994 and 2004, the value of Virginia’s seafood harvest decreased by 30 percent, as did the number of related jobs. The decline of crabs in the Bay has cost Maryland and Virginia about $640 million between 1998 and 2006, the CBF points out, which will only get worse should the TMDL plan be delayed or restricted.
Other recreational activities centered on the Bay could also suffer. Wildlife watchers spent $960 million in Virginia in 2006 on trip-related expenses and equipment, and boaters were responsible for $55 million in economic impact in Hampton, Virginia.
Health costs and property value are also affected by an unhealthy Bay, the report finds.
“Virginia and the Bay states can have clean water and a growing economy,” Jennings said. “Overwhelming majorities of Virginia voters understand that investments in clean water are investments in our economic future and our children’s future.”
Read the full report on the CBF website.