History of the Commission

The Chesapeake Bay Commission was established in 1980 to assist the states in cooperatively managing the Chesapeake Bay. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became a member in 1985. The formation of the Commission was the result of a 1978 study by the joint Maryland-Virginia Chesapeake Bay Legislative Advisory Commission. The advisory commission was convened to evaluate existing and proposed management resource structures and to make recommendations for strengthening interstate ties and better coordinating the management of the Bay. After considering a number of possible structures for cooperatively managing the Bay, including direct federal involvement, the advisory commission recommended the establishment of a bi-state Commission. It was felt that this option was preferable as it involved no federal statutory limitations, it highlighted state responsibility for the Bay clean-up and it strengthened policy linkages between the states. Furthermore, it focused legislative attention on Bay problems that had been identified by the states' executive agencies by providing timely policy advice to the state legislatures.

The history of the Chesapeake Bay Legislative Advisory Commission is relevant to understanding the role of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. The findings of the advisory commission's study -- that greater interstate cooperation was needed, that the legislatures of the states needed to be engaged, that the initiative to clean the Bay had to come from the states themselves in order to be successful -- had a direct impact on the goals and duties of the Chesapeake Bay Commission. Therefore, the legislation creating the Commission, which was adopted by the General Assemblies of Maryland and Virginia, specified a number of goals consistent with the advisory commission's recommendations:

  • to assist the legislatures in evaluating and responding to mutual Bay concerns
  • to promote intergovernmental cooperation and coordination for resource planning
  • to promote uniformity of legislation where appropriate
  • to enhance the functions and powers of existing offices and agencies, and
  • to recommend improvements in the management of Bay resources.

Recognizing the importance of the Pennsylvania portion of the watershed to the Bay clean up effort, in 1985 the Commission acted to include Pennsylvania as a member state. Since that time, the Chesapeake Bay Commission has led the region as a model of interstate cooperation in ecosystem management.

For more than two decades, the Chesapeake Bay Commission has been a leader in Baywide environmental protection and restoration efforts. The Commission has promoted policy initiatives in the areas of nutrient reduction, fisheries management, toxics remediation, pollution prevention, habitat restoration and land management.

  • Since 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Commission has served as a signatory to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement and remains an integral player in helping to conduct the work of the Chesapeake Bay Program. The Commission also served as a signatory to the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement.
  • During the 1980s, the Commission was instrumental in working with state agencies and with our federal partners to establish a Baywide ban on threatened stocks of striped bass. As a result, striped bass have recovered and the fishery once again thrives.
  • In 1984, the Commission was at the center of a coordinated effort to ban the use of phosphate detergents in all three Bay Program states.
  • The Commission has been a strong proponent in the passage of key land-use laws that protect the Bay's shorelines, such as Maryland's Critical Area Act and Virginia's Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act.
  • After signing the 1992 Amendments to the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, which committed the signatories to reducing nutrients in the Bay's rivers as well as the Bay itself, the Commission helped establish the process for developing these tributary strategies and passed a resolution to ensure their success.
  • In 1994, the Commission sponsored successful legislation in Pennsylvania requiring certain livestock operations to develop and implement nutrient management plans to protect Bay waters.
  • Realizing the importance of riparian, or streamside, forests to both water quality and habitat in the watershed's streams and river, in 1994 the Commission adopted a resolution to maintain and restore riparian forests. This kicked off a major initiative to develop a watershed-wide Bay Program policy on the restoration of riparian forest buffers.
  • The Commission led the Bay Program in the development of a policy on nonindigenous aquatic species and in 1995 published a landmark report on the introduction of these species through the ballast water of ships entering the Bay.
  • The Commission established in 1996 the first ongoing bi-state committee to promote cooperation in the management of the Bay's most commercially valuable species, the blue crab. As a result the Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee has been a catalyst for cooperation management of the blue crab.
  • The Commission's state delegations have worked to protect natural resources and promote more responsible land use through legislation to protect wetlands and forests from development and to reduce impacts from sediment and erosion.
  • In 1997, the Commission led efforts to better engage and support community-based watershed management and planning by successfully advocating the adoption of the Community Watershed Initiative by the Chesapeake Bay Program.
  • The Commission focused attention on the restoration of submerged aquatic vegetation through its participation in SAV policy actions in both Maryland and Virginia.
  • The Commission led the drafting effort of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement.
  • The Commission, in a partnership with the Trust for Public Land, undertook an analysis of land preservation in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed which received significant attention

Throughout the years, the Commission has continued as a powerful voice in representing the interests of the states amongst our federal partners. Members and staff have been instrumental in supporting federal environmental initiatives such as the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act, the Clean Water Act, the revised Farm Bill, and the Clean Vessel Act and the nonindigenous aquatic species act.