Blue about Blues and Cuts at the EPA

by Bella Rum

After removing the catch and rebaiting the crab pot, a waterman tosses it back in the river.

The EPA could see a 25% budget cut that would include removing 3,000 staffers, and regulations for clean air and water are being dismantled. This list covers only a few things that will be cut.

  • Chesapeake Bay cleanup budget cut from $75M to $5M
  • Great Lakes cleanup project funding cut 97%
  • Greenhouse gas elimination funding cut ?
  • Water and air quality grants cut 30%

I’m not panicking yet. This is not a serious budget. It can’t be. I’m banking on congress pushing back. These issues are important to a lot of constituents. Don’t get me wrong. There will be serious cutbacks. It’s no joke, but this budget would cripple these projects and many more. Tell me they won’t do that.

Of these projects, I know the most about the delicate ecosystem of the Chesapeake Bay. It’s struggling, and it’s bounty has diminished shockingly since my father was a waterman. Pollution is a huge factor. Four generations of my family have made a living from the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers connected to it. We’ve loved it, depended on it and been awed by its beauty, its bounty and its many moods. Mostly we’re grateful for it, and once you’re grateful for something, you can’t take it for granted anymore.

The scientific name for the blue crab is Callinectes sapides, which means savory beautiful swimmer, and that they are. 

Juvenile Blue Crab

A cleaned blue crab. Almost ready for the frying pan.

Juvenile blue crabs live in clumps of eel grass and widgeon grass that grow along the shores of the lower Bay. It’s the perfect haven for them. Without healthy grasses, the young and vulnerable blue crab cannot survive. The grasses are struggling, as is the blue crab. Vigilance is our duty or we could lose something that we can never reclaim.

Don’t even get me started on the Kepone incident at Hopewell, Virginia. Life Science operated only 16 months in 1974 and 1975, but what a horrible catastrophe it caused in that short time. It poisoned its employees and polluted the rivers and Bay, causing unimaginable damage to the environment. It polluted the oyster beds for years, including my father’s bed. It was a bad time for watermen. Many had to leave the river and find employment elsewhere while others were left to eke out a living. They actually closed the rivers for periods of time. No one was allowed to work. It nearly crushed an industry. Companies have to be held accountable. They will not police themselves.

I could go on forever, but I won’t. We all have our own loves and our own heartaches. This is my heartache today.