As long as communities in the National Capital area face pollution threats, the impacts of climate change, and inequitable access to clean water, WATERKEEPERS® Chesapeake (WKC) and its members will be there. WKC is a coalition of 17 independent Waterkeeper programs working to make the local waters of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays regions swimmable and fishable. To effectively fight pollution and champion clean water, WKC amplifies the voices of each Waterkeeper and mobilizes these organizations to work locally and regionally by sharing resources and leveraging each individual organization’s strengths to advance our collective clean water mission. WKC enhances our members’ capacity for on the water, citizen-based enforcement of environmental laws by providing important skills training, as well as high-quality legal, advocacy, grassroots organizing and capacity-building support in an ongoing effort to ensure clean water for all.
At the core of WKC’s work is our commitment to protecting the 18 million residents of the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays regions from pollution and environmental threats. WKC accomplishes this by being a successful steward of environmental causes that promote equity, sustainability, and long-term systemic change. In addition, WKC prioritizes efforts that reduce stormwater pollution and achieve the cleanup goals of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) by 2025. The cleanup plan includes requirements for the amount of pollutants allowed to enter the Chesapeake Bay. Controlling stormwater runoff helps prevent high bacteria levels that close our swimming areas, algae blooms that choke our waterways, and the spread of toxic contaminants that harm fish, crabs, and oysters. Our Fair Farms campaign complements this effort by building a movement of over 37,000 activated Marylanders and nearly 200 farmers, businesses and restaurants working together to increase residents’ access to homegrown foods and promote sustainable farming practices that are good for families and significantly reduce the amount of agricultural pollution in our land and waterways.
Another key part of our mission involves strengthening state laws to ensure they protect our local rivers and streams, and increase the transparency of dam or pipeline projects that must undergo Clean Water Act certifications. The flawed Conowingo Dam settlement agreement between Maryland Department of the Environment and Exelon (the dam’s owner) demonstrates an important challenge to our Bay restoration goals. Since the settlement agreement was released towards the end of 2019, WKC has coordinated action alerts, submissions of comments, and requests for letters from our networks and supporters to encourage the state of Maryland to withdraw from this dangerous settlement. In addition, WKC secured the support of 60 senators and delegates who co-sponsored a bi-partisan bill to stop this agreement, as well as rallied support for the bill from Maryland watermen and federal lawmakers. While WKC awaits a decision about the settlement from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, we will continue pursuing this issue until a reasonable resolution is achieved. Our goal is to hold Exelon responsible for its fair share of the cleanup costs associated with operating the dam.
Recognizing that pollution disproportionately impacts underserved communities and communities of color, WKC launched the Clear Choices Clean Water (“Clear Choices”) stormwater reduction campaign to both educate and empower individuals-- no matter where they live-- to make a lasting difference in their local environment. An award-winning social marketing resource, Clear Choices uses virtual and in-person events, volunteer conservation projects and research-driven marketing to encourage individuals to take pledges that correspond with water-friendly practices like landscaping with native plants, using less fertilizer, managing yard and pet wastes, maintaining septic systems, fostering soil health and more. Those pledges are then added to an interactive map that allows pledge-takers to see how their community members are being successful stewards of our environment.
The impact of WKC’s work can be measured by such successes as the Fracking Ban in Maryland, the Safe Disposal of Coal Ash Bill, the Comprehensive Agriculture Reporting and Enforcement Bill, and the Sediment and Erosion Reporting Act. In addition, our coalition developed a rapid response plan for helping our members solve active crises and improve water conditions.
Whether it is orchestrating strategic communications campaigns, sharing action alerts, taking legal actions, preparing and submitting comments or legislation that exemplify our stance on clean water laws, or organizing a cohesive regional voice that can speak on environmental issues impacting every resident, WKC is committed to undertaking projects and programs that preserve our beautiful natural resources for generations of Chesapeake and Coastal Bays residents to enjoy.