Those of us living along and fishing in the Chesapeake Bay have seen the best & worst of the fight against water pollution. For decades we enjoyed an increase in water quality and a reduction in pollution, and along with it, fishing that seemed to go off the charts for striped bass, sea trout, and other species. Water clarity improved. Grass beds multiplied. And then the drought ended – and we woke up from the dream. All it took was a couple of rainy springs to wash all the accumulated nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediments right into the bay. What we thought was an improvement in water quality turned out to be a stroke of luck; reduced rainfall in the 90’s simply meant less garbage was being washed into the bay. When the wet springs returned we saw water quality plummet – and fishing quality also dropped to no small degree.
Now, the failure to make real and lasting gains in Chesapeake water quality can be reversed – if we anglers join in with the enviros to pressure congress into passing the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act. The act would force real measures on municipalities, developers, farmers, and state and federal governments to make measured gains in water quality. Yeah, I know: these laws have rarely worked in the past. The difference this time is the presence of teeth, which can be used to enforce the law. Not a lot of ‘em, but there are at least two; the denial of funds available to states, and the ability of citizens to bring suit against states and the EPA for a failure to act.
Now, I know that most of the folks reading this don’t live along the shores of the Chesapeake. But even those of us as far away as California, Texas, and Florida should pay close attention to this fight. The nation has been trying – and failing – to clean up the bay for decades, and we all need this win to prove that we want, need, and will fight for (read: vote for those who fight for) cleaner waterways and the better fishing that goes along with it. Wherever the heck you may be right now I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that you’ve looked over the side of your boat to see murky, discolored water. You’ve read about near-by fish kills. You’ve seen the no-swimming warnings. You’ve experienced all of those things we have – and hate – here on the bay. So check in at http://www.capwiz.com/cbf/home/ , where you’ll find several links with tips on how to e-mail your representative and cast your support for the act. Hopefully, in a decade or two pictures like this will be the exception, not the norm.