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List of State Officials - Martin O'Malley, Governor; Anthony Brown, Lt. Governor; Robert Summers, Acting MDE Secretary 

Volume IV, Number 9

 March 2011

eMDE is a quarterly publication of the Maryland Department of the Environment. It covers articles on current environmental issues and events in the state. 

A new phase for the Bay

By Jim George, Ph.D., Science Services Administration

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With the development and continued fine-tuning of a detailed road map to reduce pollutants entering our waterways, Maryland is turning the corner in its long-running effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay and improve local waterways.

Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan sets nutrient and sediment limits for wastewater treatment plants, urban stormwater, septic systems, agricultural sources, and even airborne pollution that degrades the Bay. The plan is well-balanced, distributing the work that must be done to restore the Bay equitably among sectors.

Maryland developed its Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) in 2010, submitting it to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in December. Later that month, EPA issued its final Total Maximum Daily Load, or pollution diet, for the multi-state Bay watershed.

Maryland’s Phase I WIP improved a publicly reviewed draft that had been considered the strongest of all the Bay watershed states’ plans. Now, State officials are working with local governments and other stakeholders on a Phase II plan that will include further refinements necessary to achieve full implementation.

For many Marylanders, a Watershed Implementation Plan for the Bay must create a sense of deja vu. Didn’t we just develop a restoration plan? What’s different this time? 

Maryland developed Tributary Nutrient Reduction Strategies with 2000 and 2010 deadlines. Progress was made, experience was gained, and many lessons were learned. However, achieving the intended widespread ecosystem restoration proved elusive. One important lesson was that the previous 10-year deadlines did not promote sufficient accountability of interim milestones. Therefore, starting in 2009, Maryland and other Bay states began adopting 2-year milestone commitments for reducing nutrients. The Chesapeake Bay Programand EPA have begun to closely monitor Bay regional progress, jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction. 

Another lesson learned was that a voluntary, regional compact such as the Chesapeake Bay Agreement, while beneficial in certain regards, simply lacked the necessary force of regulation – a force that has proven to be necessary to tackle significant, unaddressed sources of pollution and to ensure that Bay restoration is sustained in the face of continued population growth pressure. The legal framework of the federal Clean Water Act is the tool needed to level the playing field. Under the existing federal regulatory framework, all significant contributors to Bay degradation will be required to bear their fair share of cleanup and restoration costs.

The new effort is significantly different in that it seeks to impose equitable requirements on all polluting sectors and to measure and track outcomes in shorter, more effective timeframes. Much is at stake – for Maryland, a healthy and bountiful Chesapeake Bay represents preservation of the State’s rich heritage and opportunity for its future economic growth. In 2004, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Finance Panel observed that the Bay might be worth more than $1 trillion to the economy of the region.
More broadly, this Chesapeake Bay restoration commitment is being held out to the nation as a test of society’s ability to restore and preserve healthy water. If it can’t be done in a place with a long history of technical expertise, investment and practical experience, then what will it take to bring about needed improvement and to sustain a restored, highly valuable ecosystem in any other area?

The Phase II WIP, which will be developed during 2011, will adjust and refine the Phase I plan, which sets reduction goals for 2017 and 2020. Local teams, organized at the county scale, will work with State liaisons to affirm or refine the loading targets for each of the source sectors. Local teams will be composed of representatives from the county, municipalities, soil conservation districts, federal facilities and other authorities with the responsibility to control pollution. Other stakeholders will also be invited to participate.

The Phase II WIP development process has been initiated with a series of five regional meetings in January and February. State liaisons began forming local teams and facilitated initial discussions about the next steps. The initial steps will include assessing how much progress can be made with current resources and identifying specific resource needs. This assessment will support refinement of the strategies for achieving the goals and setting two-year milestones for implementation and for building additional capacity during 2012 and 2013. This set of two-year milestones is due at the end of 2011.

In early summer, the EPA will provide updated information based on a refined watershed model. At that point, local teams will have the information needed to make tangible refinements to the Phase I WIP. A key component is finding ways to lower the cost and develop a funding strategy. The State and local teams are to complete their work on draft Phase II WIPs by the end of the calendar year, which will be made available for public review and finalization in early 2012.

The Watershed Implementation Plan was the subject of a “Maryland Forward” local policy forum convened by Gov. Martin O’Malley Feb. 24 in Easton.

With the Bay TMDL, MDE believes that restoration of the Bay is finally within sight. This will benefit not just the Bay but local waterways, drinking water, public health, and our economy.

Go to MDE’s website for more information on the WIP development process and TMDL implementation.


©2011 Copyright MDE

Editorial Board
Maryland Department of the Environment
1800 Washington Boulevard, Baltimore, MD 21230