THE BLOG

Clean Water: The Solution, Not the Problem

02/18/2014 12:38 pm ET | Updated Apr 20, 2014

Everyone has a right to clean water. Recently, 21 states -- many located hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away from the Chesapeake states -- joined the Farm Bureau's efforts to derail the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint, a plan for restoring clean water in Chesapeake streams and rivers. Why? Because elected officials in these states are concerned that if the Chesapeake is successful, their states might have to reduce pollution and clean up their waterways too. And... that's a bad thing?

After decades of discussion and failed proposals, the landmark Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint was approved with support from all six states in the watershed, is recognized as an excellent collaborative model, and should be replicated -- not attacked.

The health of our national parks is directly linked to the health of the waters that surround and flow through them. Across the country, the National Parks Conservation Association supports initiatives by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect and restore water quality and quantity in America's 21 Great Waters, which includes the Chesapeake, Everglades, Great Lakes, Colorado River and Puget Sound, as well as other crucial waterways such as Alaska's Bristol Bay. America's Great Waters are recognized for their national significance, providing drinking water for millions of Americans, supporting critical jobs and local economies, and offering outstanding recreational opportunities.

Clean water gives life to our national parks. From Acadia to the Grand Canyon, Everglades to Lake Clark, water is central to wildlife, recreation and visitor enjoyment. However, water pollution beyond park boundaries from residential and commercial development, polluted storm water from urban and agriculture areas, and greenhouse gas emissions harm public health and diminish environmental and economic benefits throughout the nation, especially at our national parks. Unfortunately, 212 of our 401 national parks -- more than half -- have waterways that are considered "impaired" under the Clean Water Act, meaning they do not meet health-protective water quality standards. Among the most common reasons why they fail to meet the standards are sediment pollution, and excessive fertilizers draining from lawns and farm fields.

Thankfully, restoration plans are in place to address these concerns and target a variety of problems plaguing and threatening our waterways. And these restoration plans are showing great results in states across the country. In just a short time in the Chesapeake, with the implementation of the Clean Water Blueprint, we are seeing the highest survey numbers of Maryland blue crab populations since the mid-1990s, and phosphorus pollution levels continue to decline. Under the leadership of EPA, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is improving water quality by removing toxic materials within parks that are seeping into groundwater and restoring fully functioning wetlands and natural waterways in places like Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. In Florida, EPA is working with the state to find innovative solutions that will help filter harmful nutrients before they enter Everglades National Park. And in Alaska, EPA recently completed a multi-year risk assessment for the impacts that a potential industrial mining district would have on Bristol Bay and its $480 million annual commercial fishing and tourism industries, Alaska Native cultures, and the nearby Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

Investing in restoration is a win-win for all. Those living in and around Great Waters' watersheds, including Chesapeake residents, know that a healthy economy is intrinsically linked to a healthy environment and its multi-billion dollar tourism, recreation and commercial seafood industry. Every $1 invested in Great Lakes restoration yields $2 in return and in some cases $6. In the Everglades, restoration projects have generated more than 10,500 jobs in Florida over the last several years and more than 442,000 jobs are expected to be created over the next several decades in tourism, real estate and commercial and recreational fishing industries.

The federal court must uphold their ruling in support of the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint so that these states can continue working together to provide clean water to the millions of residents that live here. Rather than fighting against clean water for other communities, we must work together to find solutions that are effective, successful, and can be replicated in watersheds across the country.

The Chesapeake is my home. As an avid sailor, a mother and grandmother, and a former elected official, I have worked for more than 30 years to improve the water quality and overall health of the Chesapeake. With more than 50 national parks located in the Chesapeake watershed, from the mountain streams of Shenandoah National Park, to the shores along Fort McHenry National Monument, we're not afraid of clean water. Are you?