Chesapeake Bay Restoration

The Chesapeake Bay is Maryland’s greatest economic and environmental treasure. Since the 1950s, the Bay has experienced a decline in water quality due to over enrichment of unwanted nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. The major contributors to nutrient discharge in the bay are wastewater effluent, urban and agricultural runoff, and air deposition. By enacting the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act and the Maryland Healthy Air Act, Maryland is now a national leader in air and water quality improvements.

New State Laws and Rules to Restore the Bay

View of the Chesapeake Bay at sunsetThe State of Maryland has developed a comprehensive environmental package of critical new legislation and regulations that address Bay restoration including the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund and the Maryland Clean Power Rule.

  Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act
Far-reaching legislation signed into law in 2004 to address Bay restoration, the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund, created a dedicated fund administered by MDE for upgrading the 67 largest wastewater treatment plants to Enhanced Nutrient Reduction (ENR) standards. Upgrade of these 66 wastewater treatment plants will show immediate and dramatic results faster than many other nutrient programs. Once these plants are operating at ENR standards, conservatively 7.5 million pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorus will stop going into the Bay each year. This represents over one-third of Maryland’s commitment under the 2000 Chesapeake Bay Agreement. A nominal environmental surcharge is set on homeowners and businesses in Maryland to fund these upgrades.

  Septic Upgrade Program to Remove Nitrogen

The Bay Restoration Fund Act created a similar fee to be paid by onsite sewage disposal system (OSDS) or septic users. That fee funds OSDS upgrades and implement cover crops to reduce nitrogen loading to the Bay.  The goal of the OSDS upgrades and planting of cover crops is to reduce the nitrogen levels in the State’s groundwater, which discharges to Chesapeake Bay and contributes to the water quality problems in the Bay and its tributaries. With priority given to failing OSDS in Critical Areas, funds are provided for grants to homeowners and businesses for upgrades of existing systems to best available technology for nitrogen removal. Maryland’s Department of Agriculture oversees the portion of the fund to implement the planting of cover crops on agricultural land. Cover crops are winter crops planted solely to absorb unused nitrogen fertilizer applied during the growing season and are one of the most cost-effective and efficient ways to control excess nitrogen pollution. 

  Maryland's Stormwater Management Act of 2007
On April 24, 2007, former Governor Martin O’Malley signed the “Stormwater Management Act of 2007” (Act), which became effective on October 1, 2007. Regulations took effect on May 4, 2009 that require environmental site design (ESD), through the use of nonstructural best management practices and other better site design techniques, be implemented to the maximum extent practicable. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) is charged with implementing the provisions of the Stormwater Management Act (Environment Article 4 §201.1 and §203) that are available.

  Regulations and General Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (AFO)
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) and the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) want to update you regarding the proposed regulations and General Permit for Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs).  Once finalized, the regulations and permit are designed to control nutrients from Maryland’s largest agricultural animal operations and are a significant step forward in protecting the Chesapeake Bay, local waterways, and our drinking water.  For more information click here.

  Maryland Clean Cars Program
The Maryland Clean Cars Program, passed by the General Assembly and signed into law by former Governor Martin O'Malley, adopts California’s stricter vehicle emission standards. These standards will become effective in Maryland for model year 2011 vehicles, significantly reducing a number of emissions including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). The VOC reduction is expected to be 3.4 tons/days greater than the Federal standards and the NOx reduction is expected to be 2.9 tons/day greater than the Federal Tier 2 standards. VOCs and NOx emissions cause Maryland’s ozone problems.  For more information click here.

  Maryland Addresses Climate Change
On April 20, 2007, former Governor Martin O’Malley signed Executive Order 01.01.2007.07 establishing the Maryland Climate Change Commission (MCCC) charged with collectively developing an action plan to address the causes of climate change, prepare for the likely consequences and impacts of climate change to Maryland, and establish firm benchmarks and timetables for implementing the Commission’s recommendations.  For more information on the Commission’s work click here.

  The Maryland General Assembly passed the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act of 2009 
This legislation bill requires the State to achieve a 25 percent reduction in Statewide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from 2006 levels by 2020. It requires the Department of Environment to develop a proposed Statewide GHG reduction plan by 2011, to solicit public comment on the proposed plan from interested stakeholders and the public, and to adopt a final plan by 2012.   The bill also requires the State to demonstrate that the 25 percent reduction can be achieved in a way that has a positive impact on Maryland’s economy, protects existing manufacturing jobs and creates significant new “green” jobs in Maryland.  For more information click here

  Policy for Nutrient Cap Management and Trading
The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has developed a Policy for Nutrient Cap Management and Trading.  Under this policy, Maryland will continue to be a leader in the effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay while accommodating expected population growth.

  Maryland Healthy Air Act
One-third of the nitrogen delivered to the Bay comes from the air. Maryland’s Healthy Air Act will have a significant benefit on public health, air quality and the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The emission controls will reduce air deposition of nitrogen by 900,000 pounds a year to the Bay.  Click here for tips on making your home and car more energy efficient, save money and protect the Bay.

Funding for Water Quality Improvements

In addition to the Bay Restoration Fund, MDE’s Water Quality Infrastructure Program also provides grants and loans for sewage treatment and drinking water system upgrades through the State’s Biological Nutrient Removal (BNR) Cost-Share Grants Program, Supplemental Assistance Program and State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF). Learn more about the Water Quality Financing.