Opening Statement of Senator James M. Inhofe
Subcommittee on Wildlife and Water Oversight Hearing on
“A Renewed Commitment to Protecting the Chesapeake Bay: Reauthorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program”
August 3, 2009 2:00 p.m.
The Chesapeake Bay Program is a regional partnership that was started in 1983. Bay Program partners include the states in the watershed, the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a tri-state legislative body; the federal government, represented by EPA; and participating citizen advisory groups. The Chesapeake Bay watershed stretches across more than 64,000 square miles, encompassing parts of six states we have represented here today: Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The watershed includes more than 100,000 streams and rivers that eventually flow into the Bay.
I am glad that Sen. Cardin is holding this important hearing today. States, local governments and private citizens are the primary caretakers for their water resources. They have the knowledge and expertise to understand how best to deal with environmental concerns, almost always better than a Washington bureaucrat, far removed from the stream or tributary. I am very glad that we have all the states in the bay watershed here today and I encourage them to tell us what they are doing and where they have been successful.
I know firsthand that voluntary environmental programs are very successful. Since 2003, the Oklahoma Conservation Commission has invested in conservation practices in Oklahoma’s top priority watersheds. These state conservation and education programs have documented a 69% decrease in phosphorous and nitrogen in a tributary to the Illinois River. This wasn’t achieved through a top-down, EPA-driven program, but through partnership with the State and local land users to ensure sustainable results through locally led, voluntary solutions. My state’s experience is that heavy handed regulations that ignore economic realities and property rights do not work.
As we look toward re-authorizing the Chesapeake Bay Program, it is important to hear from all stakeholders about the parts of the program that work and the parts of the program that could be improved. Taking care of a resource like the Chesapeake Bay requires the buy in of all interested stakeholders, from businesses, to fishermen, to land users and developers upstream. A top-down, heavy handed federal approach will not lead to the kind of real changes that are necessary to ensure the health of the Bay.