Is Virginia Making the Grade?
Last month, the Bay state governors signed a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement, the fourth such compact since 1983. The new agreement lays out 10 ambitious goals that the Bay states, the District of Columbia, EPA, and the Chesapeake Bay Commission will strive to achieve over the coming decade.
CBF's and Choose Clean Water Coalition's analysis of the latest milestone goals and progress toward restoring the Bay in each state across the watershed.
This is an ambitious new Bay Agreement, and we applaud Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe for committing the Commonwealth to all 10 of its goals. They reinforce Virginia's commitment to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, the federal-state program to reduce pollution and save the Bay.
The Blueprint, put in place by EPA and the Bay states in 2010, remains the driving force for Bay restoration, and it is working. The Bay already is showing small but measurable signs of improvement.
Key to the Blueprint's success are two-year milestones, a set of incremental pollution-reduction goals Virginia and the other states set for themselves every two years, then regularly and publicly report how well, or not well, they achieve them. Think of the milestones as a two-year report card on Bay restoration progress.
The Bay states recently released their latest (2012-13) milestone report, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Choose Clean Water Coalition took a look to see how the states did. Our assessment: Overall, most of the Bay states hit their two-year targets, although a few missed major nitrogen and phosphorus reduction goals. Click here to take a look at our own analysis.
Virginia exceeded its overall pollution reduction targets for the two-year period. That's great news. The Old Dominion has made significant strides in reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants by investing hundreds of millions of tax dollars in local upgrades.
A closer look, however, reveals the state is coming up short on other milestones, especially goals to reduce pollution running off farmland and from urban/suburban centers. That's an important point because most of the Bay pollution reductions needed in future years must come from these areas.
The slow rate of progress on these milestones makes it clear that, unless Virginia significantly ramps up efforts, the state will not achieve 2017 and 2025 benchmarks ensuring clean water and a restored Chesapeake Bay. Virginians are making clean water progress, just not enough to succeed.
EPA and Gov. McAuliffe agree.
"Additional emphasis on improving implementation in agriculture, urban/suburban stormwater, and septic sectors will be needed to stay on track to meet its WIP and TMDL commitments by 2025," EPA said in its own analysis of Virginia's milestone progress.
And a spokeswoman for Gov. McAuliffe told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "We also recognize that we need to accelerate the implementation of water quality practices across the landscape to supplement our success in reducing [pollution] from wastewater."
The governor's staff also recently reported that Virginia regulators will speed up issuance of major runoff permits for Virginia's largest cities, a major recommendation of CBF and EPA. The McAuliffe Administration has a unique and important opportunity to put Virginia on course for success by more aggressively confronting agricultural and urban pollution. Clean water and a healthy Bay depend upon it.
Virginia Executive Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation