The Chesapeake Bay area is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and the inability of officials to control upstream pollution is a sad tale
December 27, 2008

The Chesapeake Bay area is one of the most beautiful places in the country, and the inability of officials to control upstream pollution is a sad tale:

Government administrators in charge of an almost $6 billion cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay tried to conceal for years that their effort was failing -- even issuing reports overstating their progress -- to preserve the flow of federal and state money to the project, former officials say.

The cleanup, which had its 25th anniversary this month, seems doomed to miss its second official deadline for achieving major reductions in pollution by 2010.

The goal of rescuing North America's largest estuary was formally entrusted in 1983 to a group of federal, state and local authorities under the loose guidance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The task: controlling runoff from 4.8 million acres of farmland, installing upgrades at more than 400 sewage plants and managing the catch of more than 11,000 licensed watermen.

But the agencies charged with the cleanup have never mustered enough legal muscle or political will to overcome opposition from the agricultural and fishing industries and other interests.

Instead of strengthening their tactics, though, they tried to make the cleanup effort look less hopeless than it was.

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