The director of the federal office that coordinates the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort has left after spending less than a year in that position.
Kandis Boyd, who 11 months ago was named director of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program office, has become senior advisor to the agency’s regional administrator, Adam Ortiz. Replacing Boyd on an interim basis is Dave Campbell, the acting director of EPA Region 3’s laboratory services and applied science division.
Ortiz described the leadership change in an April 25 email to staff as the beginning of “a new phase of Bay restoration.” He did not explain the reasons for the change in the email or in his response to a query from the Bay Journal.
The turnover comes as the Bay Program partnership grapples with the prospect of missing a 2025 deadline for reducing nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake, along with other key restoration objectives.
Based in Annapolis, the EPA’s Bay Program office helps coordinate the efforts of federal agencies, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia to restore the estuary’s water quality and fulfill the goals of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement.
Boyd assumed the Bay Program office leadership in June 2022 after a career as a federal meteorologist and agency senior manager. She had most recently served as strategic advisor to the National Science Foundation for equity and diversity. Prior to that, she had been acting director and deputy director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s weather office.
The EPA’s Bay Program office had been without a permanent director for more than a year when Boyd took over. Dana Aunkst, a former Pennsylvania environmental official who took charge of the office in 2018, stepped down in March 2021.
When Boyd’s selection was announced last year, Ortiz had praised her “experience as a strategic leader in the sciences” and said her “success engaging diverse communities and youth will help take the Bay effort to a new level as we focus on climate change and vulnerable communities.”
Those were two of several areas where the federal-state Bay restoration was falling short at the time. In 2021, a Bay Program review warned that 7 of the 30 restoration outcomes spelled out as targets in the 2014 agreement were unlikely to be met by 2025 “without a significant change in course.” Nearly as many others appeared uncertain at the time because of insufficient data.
Among the shortcomings was the central goal of restoring the Bay’s water quality. An EPA review last year found that Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware and New York failed to hit their interim targets for reducing nutrient pollution in the 2020–21 time period. None was on track to curb pollution from agriculture, the largest source of nutrients and sediment to the Bay, the agency said. Only the District of Columbia and West Virginia had met their goals.
In October, Ortiz publicly declared what many federal and state officials had been acknowledging more quietly — that the regional partnership would miss the 2025 deadline for reducing nutrient pollution and other goals. He also said that it was time begin talking about “recalibrating the timeline for restoration.”
At its annual meeting that month, the Bay Program Executive Council, made up of leaders of the six watershed states and the District, plus the EPA, called on their senior staffs to “rethink how we accelerate” momentum “through 2025 and beyond,” as EPA Administrator Michael Regan put it.
Ortiz said then that officials hoped to increase progress toward restoration goals with the influx of “historic” levels of federal funding recently approved by Congress. Since then, a “Reaching 2025” work group, made up of about two dozen federal and state officials, began meeting in March to assess how and where the restoration pace can be increased. Another group, dubbed “Beyond 2025,” to craft a restoration plan beyond the deadline, is to begin meeting this year.
Meanwhile, the EPA recently agreed to increase oversight over farms, stormwater systems and wastewater treatment plants in Pennsylvania — the state furthest behind in reducing nutrient pollution. The agreement came in a proposed settlement to a 2020 lawsuit against the agency brought by Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, the District and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“The Bay Program and the Bay Partnership are now effectively working together in a ‘tough love’ approach to fix the stubborn problems that have slowed restoration in the past,” Ortiz said in a statement issued about the leadership change. “Working together, we have finally begun to provide adequate support for small farmers in Pennsylvania, have stepped up enforcement, and are providing more financial investment than ever before for restoration.”
In her new role, Ortiz said that Boyd will “focus on implementing the [Biden] Administration’s priority initiatives for environmental protection and infrastructure” in the region, which encompasses Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. Boyd did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Campbell has led Region 3’s Laboratory Services and Applied Science Division since its creation in 2019, according to Ortiz. Prior to that, he held management positions in regional EPA divisions overseeing air quality, land and chemicals, and environmental assessment and information. He has a bachelor of science degree in engineering from the University of Delaware and a master’s in environmental engineering from Penn State.
Ortiz said Campbell “brings a strong background in data-driven and science-based field investigative work for decision-making. His leadership experience and expertise will serve the partnership well as we approach the next phase in restoration.”
Mariah Davis, acting director of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, thanked Boyd for her service and said the nonprofit environmental group looked forward to working with her successor. But she called this a “critical time” for the restoration effort.
”We need visionary leadership to not only meet our 2025 goals,” Davis said, “but to look beyond and address the many water issues that touch the lives of people in the Bay watershed.”
This article was originally published on BayJournal.com and is republished with permission.