Earth Month, Day 10: Chesapeake Bay Cleanup

Betsy KulmanToday on Earth Month we bring you Betsy Kulman's story about the politically complicated business of cleaning up Chesapeake Bay, in Al Jazeera America. How the Chesapeake Bay Became a New Front in States' vs. Federal Rights

ROCK HALL, Md. – Since the 1960s, Chesapeake Bay waterman Dave Kirwin has seen the waters where he earns his livelihood overwhelmed with a combination of agricultural and industrial runoff, sediment and wastewater from sewage-treatment plants.

“When they started using fertilizer, stepping that up in agriculture, and the runoff, that’s what killed all the grasses,” he said of the plants that once poked up along the entire coastline. “I’ve worked on this water for 48 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes. And not any of them good.”

For 30 years, the six states surrounding the bay have pledged to clean it up.

But with no financial penalties, their numerous voluntary agreements have failed to limit pollution in the watershed that’s home to 17.5 million Americans. So in 2009, President Obama stepped in, inadvertently setting off a fight that has made the bay an unexpected but critical battleground in the broader war between states' versus federal rights... Read and watch more.

Waterman Dave Kirwin has been fishing in the Chesapeake Bay for decades, and his seen it transform firsthand. (Photo courtesy America Tonight)