Another delay for saving the Bay
If you've been anxiously awaiting, as I have, the chance to see what "game-changing" ideas federal officials have come up with for jump-starting the lagging Chesapeake Bay restoration, you'll have to wait until tomorrow. There's been another delay - an all-too-familiar event in the troubled 26-year history of the bay cleanup effort.
Today was the day the state and federal bay "partnership" had publicly announced it would release a series of draft reports outlining proposals for accelerating the pace of cleaning up the Chesapeake and safeguarding its fish and wildlife. Spokesmen for the Chesapeake Bay Program office in Annapolis had said as recently as yesterday that the seven draft reports would be posted online by around 9 a.m. today, and that there would be either a press conference or a tele-conference in early afternoon with Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.
Late this morning, more than two hours after the promised release time, Jim Edwards, deputy director of EPA's bay program office, told me when I reached him by phone that the reports were not quite ready for prime time, and their release had been delayed until Thursday.
The documents are still being "finalized," he said, in particular one report that focuses on restoring and maintaining the bay's "living resources," including bay grasses, oysters, crabs, fish and other wildlife. Plus, he said, officials are busily writing executive summaries so the public won't have to wade through all those 30- to 50-page reports to get the gist of what's being proposed. For background on what to expect in the reports, go here.
Edwards said the bay program staff still expects to present the reports to the EPA administrator by the end of the day today. If that happens, then techincially, at least, they would avoid running afoul of the deadline set by President Obama in the executive order he issued last May calling for a new federal strategy for restoring the bay. Obama's order requires the draft reports to be submitted by Sept. 9, and that a cleanup strategy be developed from those drafts and put out for public comment by Nov. 9. EPA bay program officials, however, had gone beyond the letter of the president's order to say the reports would be made publicly available today, the day they had to be submitted.
The delayed release drew a mildly barbed response from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which has sued the EPA over its failure to step in in the face of repeated failure by the bay restoration "partners" to meet deadlines and commitments they've set for cleaning up the estuary. President Obama's executive order was meant to break out of that rut.
"They're not off to the kind of start that you want to be off to," said John Surrick, spokesman for the Annapolis-based environmental group. "