Surrounded by several states and objects to multilevel jurisdiction, the Baltic Sea and the Chesapeake Bay have a lot in common. During the seminar Law and governance in the Baltic Sea and the Chesapeake Bay researchers discussed how efficiently these areas are governed concerning serious environmental problems, and how effective the legal frameworks and the competent institutions are in dealing with these issues.

Ecologically restored by 2021 and 2025

Similar timelines define the work towards ecologically restored water bodies in both areas. During the last four decades, the states sharing the catchment of Chesapeake Bay have developed the regional law and policy from the Clean Water Act (1972) whilst the regional Helsinki Convention (1974) and Baltic Sea Action Plan, later on accompanied by several EU directives, have been the main environmental framework for the Baltic Sea.

- When EU became party of HELCOM, a number of environmental principles was incorporated such as the precautionary principle, polluters pay principle and best available technique and practice, Brita Bohman, Senior lecturer at the Department of Law, Stockholm University, presented.

To improve water quality, eutrophication is the major common concern in both regions, and according to researchers, the focus on measures has shifted from the aquatic environment to activities in the watershed. In the Chesapeake Bay in 2010, the Total Maximum Daily Load created the first legal requirements in the nation to reduce nutrients and achieve standards for water quality, which became the states' responsibility to implement.

– The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has provided expectation letters and it is up to the different states to have all practices and controls in place by 2025 to achieve the final nutrient and sediment targets, Lara Fowler, Senior lecturer at Penn State Law, explained.

The role of law

Senior Lecturer Brita Bohman
Brita Bohman, Stockholm University

The legal status and effectiveness of the frameworks were discussed and additional drivers might be required when the implementation lies at state level. When the EPA, for instance, withheld funding from the state of Pennsylvania for not planning enough efforts to meet the reduction targets for the bay, the state modified its enforcement approach.

– So one question we, as researchers, had was “what are the enforcement mechanisms?”. Holding funds from the states, was one. But what happens when the implementation plan is not accomplished? Lara Fowler asked. 

Senior Lecturer, Lara Fowler
Lara Fowler, Penn State Law

–Just recently, a set of states and non-profit organizations have filed a sixty day notice of intent to sue the U.S. EPA for failure to meet requirements and this case will test the enforcement mechanisms.

In the Baltic Sea region, where the national, regional and international governance becomes even more complex, it does also function as motivation in the environmental management.

– The new structure with different EU framework directives and the Baltic Sea Action Plan have, besides the clear focus on ecological and ecosystem approach, also created new incentives for the EU member states to take steps in the right direction, said Brita Bohman.

Goals achieved, yet need for more action

When evaluating the progress towards the restored coastal areas, several challenges remain, but some goals have, in fact, already been reached.

– In 2017, a mid-point assessment of progress in the Chesapeake Bay found record acreage of underwater grasses and the highest estimates of water quality standards attained in 30+years, said Lara Fowler.

- But, while 60% goals for reducing phosphorus and sediment as measured under the current suite of modeling tools were exceeded, the goal for reducing nitrogen was not met.

The Baltic Sea will not reach good ecological status in 2021, as targeted in the Baltic Sea Action Plan, but the framework has contributed in other ways, according to Brita Bohman. In Europe, collaboration between scientists, managers and politicians to form the Baltic Sea Action Plan became a blueprint for the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

- According to several reports, the Baltic Sea region has achieved some parts of the BSAP, though we haven’t reached all the way, she concluded.


Download the presentations
Lara Fowler: Comparing incentives for compliance in addressing transboundary water quality issues (3408 Kb)

Brita Bohman: The problem of eutrophication and perspectives on compliance in the Baltic Sea area (2041 Kb)

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