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What Guides Us

Over our long history, the Chesapeake Bay Program has developed a series of written agreements and science-based goals to guide our work. These science-based goals help our partners track changes in the health of the Chesapeake Bay. Our environmental indicators are updated regularly to reflect the status of our restoration efforts.

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement

In 2009, the Chesapeake Bay Program began drafting a new agreement that would accelerate restoration and align federal directives with state and local goals to create a healthy Bay. Our partners gathered input from citizens, stakeholders, academic institutions, local governments and more to draft an inclusive, goal-oriented document that would address current and emerging environmental concerns. On June 16, 2014, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement was signed.

Signatories included representatives from the entire watershed, committing for the first time the Bay’s headwater states to full partnership in the Bay Program. The agreement established 10 goals and 31 outcomes to restore the Bay, its tributaries and the lands that surround them.

Our Goal Implementation Teams developed management strategies that outline the steps necessary to achieve the Agreement’s vision. These management strategies offer insight into the Bay Program partners’ proposals for reaching each outcome by 2025, as well as how we will monitor, assess and report progress toward abundant life, clean waters, engaged communities, conserved lands and climate change resilience. The strategies provide broad, overarching direction and will be further supported by two-year work plans summarizing the specific commitments, short-term actions and resources required for success.

The Chesapeake Bay "Pollution Diet"

In 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL. This “pollution diet” has become part of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, and limits the amount of nutrients and sediment that can enter the Bay in order to restore water quality. Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) detail how and when each of the Bay jurisdictions will meet their pollution-reducing goals. While the TMDL was challenged in 2011, a federal judge upheld the pollution limits in a 2013 ruling.

Past Goals

The Chesapeake Bay Program has used a series of written agreements to set science-based restoration goals. The 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement set the first ever numeric goals to reduce pollution in the Bay. At the time, agreeing to meet numeric goals within set deadlines was unprecedented; the practice has since become a hallmark of the Bay Program.

In 2000, Bay Program partners signed Chesapeake 2000, establishing more than 100 goals to reduce pollution and restore habitats, protect living resources and promote sound land use, and engage the public in restoration. Over the next decade, our partners adopted a number of important directives—including those to expand forest cover, reduce the amount of phosphorous in lawn fertilizers and increase funding for on-farm conservation programs—but it became clear that we needed to accelerate restoration.

In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order that called on the federal government to renew the effort to protect and restore the watershed. That same year, the Chesapeake Executive Council set short-term restoration goals—called two-year milestones—to hasten restoration and increase accountability.

Learn more about Bay History

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