This is the accessible text file for GAO report number GAO-08-1131R 
entitled 'Recent Actions by the Chesapeake Bay Program Are Positive 
Steps Toward More Effectively Guiding the Restoration Effort, but 
Additional Steps Are Needed' which was released on September 26, 2008.

This text file was formatted by the U.S. Government Accountability 
Office (GAO) to be accessible to users with visual impairments, as part 
of a longer term project to improve GAO products' accessibility. Every 
attempt has been made to maintain the structural and data integrity of 
the original printed product. Accessibility features, such as text 
descriptions of tables, consecutively numbered footnotes placed at the 
end of the file, and the text of agency comment letters, are provided 
but may not exactly duplicate the presentation or format of the printed 
version. The portable document format (PDF) file is an exact electronic 
replica of the printed version. We welcome your feedback. Please E-mail 
your comments regarding the contents or accessibility features of this 
document to Webmaster@gao.gov. 

This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright 
protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed 
in its entirety without further permission from GAO. Because this work 
may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the 
copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this 
material separately. 

GAO-08-1131R: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

August 28, 2008: 

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski:
United States Senate: 

Subject: Recent Actions by the Chesapeake Bay Program Are Positive 
Steps Toward More Effectively Guiding the Restoration Effort, but 
Additional Steps Are Needed: 

Dear Senator Mikulski: 

Since 1983, the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia; the 
District of Columbia; the Chesapeake Bay Commission;[Footnote 1] and 
the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have partnered to protect and 
restore the deteriorated Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. The partners 
established the Chesapeake Bay Program (Bay Program) to manage and 
coordinate a variety of restoration activities and in their most recent 
agreement, Chesapeake 2000, which was signed in June 2000, they 
established 102 commitments for the Chesapeake Bay, which were 
organized under five broad restoration goals to be achieved by 2010. 

In October 2005, we issued a report entitled Chesapeake Bay Program: 
Improved Strategies Are Needed to Better Assess, Report, and Manage 
Restoration Progress (GAO-06-96), in which we reviewed the management, 
coordination, and reporting mechanisms used by the Bay Program. 
[Footnote 2] Our review found that the Bay Program had: 

* developed more than 100 measures of restoration but lacked an 
integrated approach for measuring the progress being made in restoring 
the bay, 

* reported on individual species and pollutants but lacked independent 
and credible mechanisms to report on overall bay health, and: 

* developed numerous plans for accomplishing its restoration 
commitments but lacked a comprehensive strategy that could provide a 
roadmap for accomplishing the goals outlined in Chesapeake 2000, and: 

* used its limited resources to develop plans that could not be 
implemented within available funding levels and was limited in its 
ability to target and direct funding to those restoration activities 
that will be the most cost effective and beneficial. 

To address these concerns, we recommended that the Bay Program take the 
following six actions: 

* develop and implement an integrated approach for measuring overall 
restoration progress, 

* revise its reporting approach to include an assessment of key 
ecological attributes that reflect the bay's health, 

* report separately on the health of the bay and the progress made in 
implementing management actions, 

* establish an independent and objective reporting process, 

* develop a coordinated implementation strategy that unifies its 
various planning documents, and: 

* establish a means to better target its limited resources to the most 
cost-effective restoration activities. 

In December 2007, the Congress enacted the Consolidated Appropriations 
Act of 2008 (Pub. L. No. 110-161). An accompanying explanatory 
statement of the House Committee on Appropriations directed EPA to (1) 
immediately implement all of the recommendations in our report and (2) 
submit a report to the Congress demonstrating that our recommendations 
have been implemented. Following the submission of EPA's July 2008 
report to the Congress entitled Strengthening the Management, 
Coordination, and Accountability of the Chesapeake Bay Program, you 
asked us to provide an assessment of the steps taken by the Bay Program 
to address our 2005 recommendations. 

To assess the progress that the Bay Program has made in implementing 
our recommendations, we reviewed Bay Program documents, such as its 
2007 health and restoration assessment and the July 2008 report to the 
Congress. We also looked at partners' activities and funding data in 
the new Bay Program database, reviewed the Bay Program's Scientific and 
Technical Advisory Committee bylaws and operational guidance, and spoke 
with officials at EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program Office. We conducted our 
work in July 2008 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. These standards require that we plan and perform 
the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a 
reasonable basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit 
objectives. We believe the evidence obtained provides a reasonable 
basis for our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. 

On August 5, 2008, we provided a briefing to your staff on our 
assessment of the Bay Program's actions. This letter summarizes the 
information presented in that briefing and officially transmits the 
slides used during that briefing.[Footnote 3] 

Summary: 

The Bay Program has made progress in addressing the six recommendations 
made in our October 2005 report. However, while actions taken by the 
Bay Program have fully addressed three of our six recommendations, 
additional actions are still needed to fully address the other three 
recommendations that we made. Specifically, 

The Bay Program has developed an integrated approach to measure 
progress. A Bay Program task force identified 13 key indicators for 
measuring the health of the bay and categorized these indicators into 
three indices of bay health. In addition, the task force identified 20 
key indicators for measuring the progress of restoration activities and 
categorized these into five indices that are linked to the goals 
outlined in Chesapeake 2000. According to the Bay Program, these 
indices are now being used to assess and report on the overall progress 
being made in restoring the bay's health and implementing restoration 
efforts. We believe that these new indices will help the program better 
evaluate its progress and allow it to provide a better overall 
assessment of the bay's health and the restoration progress. 

The Bay Program has revised its reporting approach to include an 
assessment of key ecological attributes that reflect the bay's health. 
In response to our recommendation that the Bay Program's reports should 
include an ecological assessment of the health of the bay, the program 
is now reporting on 13 relevant ecological indicators. We believe that 
this new reporting approach is a more credible means of communicating 
information on the current health status of the bay. 

The Bay Program has revised its reporting format to distinguish between 
the health of the bay and the results of management actions. The Bay 
Program has developed a reporting format that, unlike the previous 
format, distinguishes between ecosystem health and management actions. 
For example, its most recent report, entitled Chesapeake Bay 2007 
Health and Restoration Assessment, is divided into four chapters: 
chapter 1 is an assessment of ecosystem health, chapter 2 describes 
factors impacting bay and watershed health, chapter 3 is an assessment 
of restoration efforts, and chapter 4 provides an assessment of local 
water quality assessments. The Bay Program is using actual monitoring 
data for the chapter that has an assessment of ecosystem health. We 
believe that the new report format is a more effective means of 
communicating separately on the health of the bay and the status of the 
restoration effort. 

The Bay Program's actions fall short of establishing a fully 
independent and objective reporting process. The Bay Program has 
charged its Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee with assuring 
the scientific integrity of the data, indicators, and indices used in 
the program's publications. In addition, it has instituted a separate 
reporting process by the University of Maryland's Center for 
Environmental Science, which assesses the bay's health in report-card 
format. While the changes the Bay Program has made are an improvement 
over the reporting process that was in place in 2005, we remain 
concerned about the lack of independence in the process for several 
reasons. First, while the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee 
does not manage the day-to-day activities of the program, the committee 
is a standing committee of the Bay Program and provides input and 
guidance on developing measures to restore and protect the bay. We 
therefore believe that this committee cannot provide a fully 
independent review of Bay Program reports. Second, we do not believe 
that the report card issued by the University of Maryland's Center for 
Environmental Science is as independent as the Bay Program believes 
because several members of the Scientific and Technical Advisory 
Committee are also employees of the center. We therefore continue to 
believe the Bay Program can take additional steps to establish a more 
independent peer review process that will further enhance the 
credibility and objectivity of its reports. 

The Bay Program has taken steps to develop some of the key elements of 
a comprehensive, coordinated implementation strategy. In response to 
our recommendation to develop a comprehensive, coordinated 
implementation strategy, the Bay Program has developed a strategic 
framework to unify existing planning documents and articulate how the 
partnership will pursue its goals. According to the program, this 
framework is intended to provide the partners with a common 
understanding of the partnership's agenda of work. However, this 
framework provides only broad strategies for meeting the Bay Program's 
goals, and does not identify the activities that will be needed to 
reach the goals, resources needed to undertake the activities, or the 
partner(s) who will be responsible for funding and carrying out the 
activities. Therefore, we continue to believe that additional work is 
needed before the strategy that the Bay Program has developed can be 
considered a comprehensive, coordinated implementation strategy that 
can move the restoration effort forward in a more strategic and well- 
coordinated manner. 

The Bay Program has taken initial steps needed to target limited 
resources to the most cost-effective strategies. According to the Bay 
Program, in addition to the strategic framework described above, it 
has, among other things, 

* adopted an adaptive management process that will allow it to modify 
the restoration strategy in response to testing, monitoring, and new 
knowledge; 

* developed annual targets that it believes are more realistic and 
likely to be achieved; and: 

* established a funding priority framework that lists priorities for 
agriculture, wastewater treatment, and land management activities. 

While these are positive steps in the right direction, we do not 
believe that these steps by themselves will allow the Bay Program to 
target limited resources to the most cost effective strategies. 
Specifically, not all annual targets, such as those for underwater bay 
grasses and oysters, have priorities associated with them. Without a 
clear set of priorities linked to each of the annual targets, we 
believe that the partners will not be able to focus limited resources 
on those activities that provide the greatest benefit to the health of 
the bay. In addition, while the program has established a process to 
identify what activities have been undertaken and what level of funding 
has been provided by each of the partners in any given year, it 
continues to lack information on what activities should have been 
undertaken and how much funding was needed. Without this benchmark 
information, the Bay Program partners will remain unable to identify 
gaps and duplication in their efforts, which will be key inputs 
necessary to effectively implementing an adaptive management approach. 

Agency Comments: 

We obtained oral comments from EPA on our assessment of the actions 
taken by the Bay Program in response to our recommendations at a 
meeting with two EPA Associate Directors assigned to the program and 
other senior Bay Program officials. These officials concurred with our 
assessment of their actions and provided us with technical comments 
that we have incorporated as appropriate. 

As agreed with your office, unless you publicly announce the contents 
of this report earlier, we plan no further distribution until 30 days 
from the report date. At that time, we will send copies to 
Administrator of EPA, the Director of the Office of Management and 
Budget, and appropriate congressional committees. We will also provide 
copies to others upon request. In addition, the report will be 
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov]. 

If you and your staff have any questions or need additional 
information, please contact me on (202) 512-3841 or mittala@gao.gov. 
Contact points for our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public 
Affairs may be found on the last page of this report. Major 
contributors to this report were Sherry McDonald, Assistant Director, 
and Barbara Patterson. 

Sincerely yours, 

Signed by: 

Anu K. Mittal:
Director:
Natural Resources and Environment: 

Enclosure: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure: Briefing slides: 

GAOís 2005 Report on the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Bay Programís 
Response to Recommendations: 

August 5, 2008: 

Recommendation: Establish an Integrated Approach to Measure Progress: 

In 2005, we reported that: 

* The Bay Program had 101 measures for individual species or 
pollutants. 

* These measures were appropriate for assessing progress made in 
achieving certain restoration commitments and to guide management 
decisions. 

* However, the Bay Program had not developed an integrated approach to 
assess progress toward achieving the five broad restoration goals. 

Recommendation: Develop and implement an integrated approach to assess 
overall restoration progress. In doing so, ensure that this approach 
clearly ties to the five broad restoration goals. 

Bay Programís Response to GAOís Recommendation: 

* A Bay Program task force identified 13 key indicators for measuring 
bay health and integrated these indicators into 3 broad indices. 

* In addition, the task force identified 20 key indicators for 
measuring the progress of restoration efforts and integrated these 
indicators into 5 broad indices. 

* The indices are linked to the overall restoration goals, and 
according to the Bay Program, it is using these indices to assess and 
report on the overall progress made in restoring the bayís health and 
in implementing restoration efforts. 

* We believe these new indices will allow the Bay program to better 
evaluate and report on progress it is making toward its goals. 

Recommendation: Improve the Effectiveness and Credibility of the Bay 
Programís Reports: 

In 2005, we reported that Bay Program reports did not provide an 
effective and credible assessment of the bayís health. The reports: 

* focused on the status of individual species or pollutants instead of 
providing information on a core set of ecosystem characteristics; 

* tended to downplay the deteriorated condition of the bay, and; 

* lacked an independent report review process. 

Recommendations: 

* include an assessment of the key ecological attributes that reflect 
the bayís health; 

* separately report on the health of the bay and management actions, 
and; 

* establish an independent review process. 

Bay Programís Response to GAOís Recommendations: 

* The Bay Program has revised its annual reporting process to use a set 
of 13 indicators to report on the key ecological attributes of the 
bayís health. 

* The programís annual reports distinguish between indicators of the 
bayís health and management actions. 

* We believe these changes will improve the clarity of the programís 
report. 

* The program charged its Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee 
with reviewing the data in its annual reports, and instituted a 
separate reporting process by the University of Maryland Center for 
Environmental Science. 
- We do not believe the Bay Program has taken adequate steps to 
establish an independent review process. 

Recommendation: Develop a Comprehensive, Coordinated Implementation 
Strategy and Realistic Work Plans: 

In 2005, we reported that: 

* The Bay Program lacked a comprehensive, coordinated implementation 
strategy that would allow it to strategically target limited resources 
to the most effective restoration activities. 

* Some of the Bay Programís planning documents were not consistent with 
each other, and some were perceived to be unachievable by the 
restoration partners. 

Recommendations: 

* Develop an overall, coordinated implementation strategy that unifies 
the programís various planning documents. 

* Establish a means to better target limited resources to ensure that 
the most effective and realistic work plans are developed and 
implemented. 

Bay Programís Response to GAOís Recommendations: 

The Bay Program developed: 

* a strategic framework to unify its planning documents; 

* annual targets that it believes are more realistic; 

* an activity integration plan to identify and catalogue implementation 
activities and resources, and; 

* dashboards that provide high-level summaries of key information, such 
as status of progress. 

In addition, the Bay Program has also adopted an adaptive management 
approach to modify its strategy as needed. 

We believe these are positive steps in the right direction, but 
additional steps, such as identifying resources, assigning 
accountability, and setting priorities linked to annual targets,are 
needed to focus on activities with the greatest environmental benefit. 

How much funding was provided for the restoration effort for fiscal 
years 1995 through 2004? 

* Eleven federal agencies; the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and 
Virginia; and the District of Columbia provided almost $3.7billion 
(constant 2004 dollars) in direct funding to restore the Bay. 

* $1.9 billion in additional funding was provided by 10 federal 
agencies, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia for activities 
that have an indirect impact on the Bayís restoration. 

* We did not make recommendations about the need to aggregate 
information on the amount of funding contributed by the partners. 
However, the Bay Program has established a database to collect 
information on the amount and source of funding being used and planned 
for restoration activities. 

[End of section] 

Footnotes: 

[1] The Chesapeake Bay Commission is a tri-state legislative assembly 
representing Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. 

[2] GAO, Chesapeake Bay Program: Improved Strategies Are Needed to 
Better Assess, Report, and Manage Restoration Progress, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-06-96] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 
28, 2005). 

[3] We also testified on our assessment of the steps taken by the Bay 
Program to address our recommendations on July 30, 2008. See GAO, 
Chesapeake Bay Program: Recent Actions Are Positive Steps Toward More 
Effectively Guiding the Restoration Effort, [hyperlink, 
http://www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-08-1033T] (Washington, D.C.: July 
30, 2008). 

[End of section] 

GAO's Mission: 

The Government Accountability Office, the audit, evaluation and 
investigative arm of Congress, exists to support Congress in meeting 
its constitutional responsibilities and to help improve the performance 
and accountability of the federal government for the American people. 
GAO examines the use of public funds; evaluates federal programs and 
policies; and provides analyses, recommendations, and other assistance 
to help Congress make informed oversight, policy, and funding 
decisions. GAO's commitment to good government is reflected in its core 
values of accountability, integrity, and reliability. 

Obtaining Copies of GAO Reports and Testimony: 

The fastest and easiest way to obtain copies of GAO documents at no 
cost is through GAO's Web site [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov]. Each 
weekday, GAO posts newly released reports, testimony, and 
correspondence on its Web site. To have GAO e-mail you a list of newly 
posted products every afternoon, go to [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov] 
and select "E-mail Updates." 

Order by Mail or Phone: 

The first copy of each printed report is free. Additional copies are $2 
each. A check or money order should be made out to the Superintendent 
of Documents. GAO also accepts VISA and Mastercard. Orders for 100 or 
more copies mailed to a single address are discounted 25 percent. 
Orders should be sent to: 

U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room LM: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

To order by Phone: 
Voice: (202) 512-6000: 
TDD: (202) 512-2537: 
Fax: (202) 512-6061: 

To Report Fraud, Waste, and Abuse in Federal Programs: 

Contact: 

Web site: [hyperlink, http://www.gao.gov/fraudnet/fraudnet.htm]: 
E-mail: fraudnet@gao.gov: 
Automated answering system: (800) 424-5454 or (202) 512-7470: 

Congressional Relations: 

Ralph Dawn, Managing Director, dawnr@gao.gov: 
(202) 512-4400: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room 7125: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Public Affairs: 

Chuck Young, Managing Director, youngc1@gao.gov: 
(202) 512-4800: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street NW, Room 7149: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: