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Governor Moore Announces New Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Improvement Strategy

Photo of three people shoveling dirt on a newly planted tree next to a river

Governor Wes Moore, Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller, and Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz plant an oak tree at Wye Mills Natural Resources Management Area as part of ‘Bay Day’. Photo by Joseph Andrucyk

During an Eastern Shore “Bay Day” tour, Governor Wes Moore on Thursday announced a major policy shift in how Maryland will deploy state resources to improve water quality in the Chesapeake Bay and other waterways to restore the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays. The governor signed two executive orders and outlined plans to provide more places for people to safely swim, better protect coastal areas from climate change, and increase fish and crab populations to improve economic opportunities for watermen and the state’s seafood industries.

“Our administration is focused on working in new and collaborative ways to reduce the pollution reaching our bays and providing our local communities and farmers with the opportunities and resources they need to succeed,” said Gov. Moore. “Now is the time to embrace the lessons we’ve learned in the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays over the past 40 years and evolve our strategy to reflect that.”

Under the Moore-Miller administration, Maryland will become the first state in the Bay watershed to embrace the latest scientific recommendations to improve our land and clean our waterways, taking a proactive healthier waterways that are more accessible for Maryland’s communities, more resilient to climate change, and benefit the important industries that depend on the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays. The governor was joined by EPA Region 3 Administrator Adam Ortiz, Lieutenant Governor Aruna Miller and state, local, and federal officials.

“The Bay belongs to all of us, and it’s on all of us to protect it,” said Lt. Gov. Miller “Today’s announcement solidifies our administration’s plan to ensure Maryland does its part to make our coastal bays a thriving ecosystem for future generations. Whether it’s farmers, homeowners, boaters, or business owners, our approach invites every Marylander to be a part of the solution to keeping our waterways clean.”

Speaking at Wye Island Natural Resources Management Area in Queenstown, the governor signed a new executive order to create the Governor’s Council on the Chesapeake and Coastal Bays Watershed, renaming and restructuring the former Governor’s Council on the Chesapeake Bay, or Bay Cabinet, which was first formed in 1985. The restructured council will be charged with coordinating and accelerating the restoration of the state’s waterways with a collective goal to create healthy watersheds that benefit the environment, economy, and communities.

Maryland will focus water quality improvement projects in specific areas with the most potential to improve wildlife habitat and populations and bolster shorelines from rising sea levels. 

“The new focus on increasing wildlife habitat will help striped bass and blue crab populations recover. Our ongoing effort to plant 5 million new trees in Maryland during the next decade will add new streamside buffers along rural and suburban areas as well as increase tree canopy in our cities to prevent polluted runoff and cool temperatures,” said Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary Josh Kurtz.  “As rising sea levels and stronger storms due to climate change threaten Maryland, we’ll be looking to expand marshes and reconnect streams and rivers to their floodplains to mitigate flooding threats.” 

At the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science at Horn Point, Gov. Moore signed a second executive order to establish the Oyster and Shell Substrate Task Force. The diverse task force was created to develop a proactive plan to keep and purchase oyster shells to ensure the state has enough hard surface to increase oyster abundance in the Bay. 

Gov. Moore also traveled to J.M. Clayton Seafood in Cambridge, where he met with leaders and discussed issues surrounding the Bay’s blue crab industry.

Gov. Moore finished the tour in Easton at a regenerative agriculture farm owned by Paul Swann, where he viewed best practices to help reduce agricultural runoff.