Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint
West Virginia's Watershed Implementation Plan
What is a Watershed Implementation Plan?
In 2010, after decades of voluntary efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay failed to remove it from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of "impaired" waters, EPA established an enforceable pollution limit known as a "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL) for the Bay and its tidal rivers. The TMDL, a provision of the Clean Water Act, is a scientific estimate of the maximum amount of pollution the Bay can tolerate and still meet water quality standards. Pollution reduction by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia is essential to cleaning up the Bay.
Subsequently, West Virginia and the other six jurisdictions agreed to create state-specific plans to implement 60 percent of their Bay cleanup practices by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. These plans are called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs and will not only help restore the Bay, but will also significantly improve the health of local waterways. Collectively, the TMDL and the WIPs establish the Cleanwater Blueprint for the Chesapeake.
How Much Progress Has Been Made?
Since 1985, the six Bay states and the District of Columbia have achieved slightly more than half of the nitrogen pollution reductions and two-thirds of the phosphorus and sediment reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a 2013 study of actual conditions in the Bay by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University showed that the size of the Bay's oxygen-starved "dead zone" has shrunk specifically because of efforts from the Bay states, including West Virginia.
But the work is far from done.
West Virginia's Two-Year Milestone Progress
To track progress toward achieving the 2017 and 2025 deadlines for implementing the Cleanwater Blueprint the Bay states and the District of Columbia agreed to establish interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, and to publicly report progress toward achieving them beginning January 2011. The two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and EPA publicly accountable.
In January 2014, the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' submitted their progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed Implementation Plan goals to EPA.
On June 11, 2014, CBF and Choose Clean Water (CCW) released an analysis of selected Milestones. The goal of this analysis was to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.
An evaluation of West Virginia's two-year milestone progress shows they have achieved three of the five milestones selected for evaluation. In particular, West Virginia's accomplishments on forest buffers and wastewater treatment are to be commended. The state rose to the occasion, in passing legislation that commits funding to construct or upgrade wastewater treatment facilities. Six have already been upgraded, with four more planned to come into compliance with the state's Blueprint requirements. On the other hand, in some areas, the state is falling behind.
Assessment of West Virginia's Progress on Selected Pollution-Reduction Practices for 2013
|Total Nutrient Application Management
||West Virginia fell short of meeting the 2013 milestone goal for this practice. However, the 2013 milestone goal was set before the state had completed cleaning up historical nutrient management data, resulting in a goal set inadvertently high. Farm acres with nutrient application management need to continue to increase each year to achieve the 2017 goal.
|Stream Access Control with Fencing
||Falling short, this program still shows success, with help from Farm Bill programs, the state Agriculture Enhancement Program, and innovative partnerships with non-governmental groups like Trout Unlimited. West Virginia is relying heavily on this practice to achieve its nitrogen and phosphorus pollution-reduction goals, so implementation efforts must be sustained.
||The success of this practice is largely due to the Farm Bill Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, which incentivizes conservation uses of land. This is a highly successful voluntary program. To achieve long-term (2017 and 2025) implementation goals for forest buffers, however, will require the implementation rate to roughly double in coming years.
|Animal Waste Management Systems
||West Virginia exceeded its 2013 goal for this practice with a steady increase in implementation in the past couple of years. This practice is important to effectively reduce nitrogen and phosphorous pollution. Implementation of the West Virginia Confined Animal Feeding Operations Program has encouraged better manure storage practices that have helped accelerate implementation.
|Wastewater Treatment Plants
||West Virginia accomplished its milestone goal for wastewater treatment through upgrades to six facilities. New construction and upgrades are made possible through a funding bill passed by the West Virginia Legislature.
Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website
View the complete report
West Virginia achieved its overall pollution-reduction goals for 2013. Much of this success is due to progress in wastewater treatment through completed facility upgrades. Some agricultural practices are showing modest improvement, but need to increase in pace to achieve long-term goals. Polluted runoff from urban and suburban sources is one of the areas of growing nitrogen pollution. Investment in more ambitious practices and programming for polluted-runoff management is needed to reverse this trend.
It needs to bolster its efforts to find creative and effective ways for accelerated implementation of agricultural practices such as nutrient application management and stream fencing. West Virginia also has to refocus efforts to address urban and suburban polluted runoff. Instead of decreasing modeled pollution loads in this sector, pollution is expected to increase. West Virginia's Department of Environmental Protection is expected to conduct a comprehensive assessment of new growth and pollution loadings for the urban sector in the next two years. This assessment needs to produce aggressive recommendations for practices and programs to address this growing source of pollution for West Virginia's Chesapeake Bay headwaters.
You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website. Or you can read about progress already being realized.
What Obstacles Does the Cleanup Face?
Apathy, finger-pointing, anti-Bay legislation and lawsuits, powerful interest groups, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the collaborative local/state/federal Bay cleanup. Yet most experts consider this the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration. The problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay manifestly outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the pollution limits work, many scientists believe the Chesapeake Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.
Developing West Virginia's Clean Water Blueprint
West Virginia submitted its Final Phase II WIP (PDF) (124 pgs, 1.7MB) to EPA on March 30, 2012. EPA issued its comments (PDF) (6 pgs, 363KB) on the plan May 31, 2012.
EPA evaluated the Bay jurisdictions' Draft Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and 2012-2013 two-year milestones and provided feedback on Feb. 15, 2012. The Phase II WIPs and the two-year milestones are important elements in helping to meet the Chesapeake Bay Program Executive Council's goal of having all practices in place by 2025 to meet water quality standards in the Chesapeake Bay. View the evaluation for West Virginia (PDF) (5 pgs, 33KB).
For their Phase II WIPs, EPA asked jurisdictions to make key stakeholders—local governments, conservations districts, farmers, builders and others—aware of their roles in cleaning up the region's waterways, and to strengthen pollution-reduction strategies for any sectors subject to federal enhanced oversight or backstop actions based on the Phase I WIPs and the Bay TMDL issued in 2010. Visit West Virginia's website to learn more about their activities to finalize their Phase II WIP.
Final Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans were submitted to EPA by the six watershed states and the District of Columbia beginning November 29, 2010. The WIPs were designed to provide a roadmap for how and when a jurisdiction intends to meet its pollutant allocations under the Bay TMDL. View the Final Phase I WIP for West Virginia.
The Phase I WIPs were reviewed by a team of EPA sector specialists based on detailed expectations provided by EPA in November 2009 (PDF) and supplemented in April 2010 (PDF) and extensive interaction with the jurisdictions since the submittal of draft WIPs in early September 2010. The WIPs needed to meet the lower pollution limits for that jurisdiction and provide reasonable assurance that the actions identified would achieve the reductions, particularly for non-permitted sources like runoff from agricultural lands and stormwater from urban and suburban lands. The final WIPs represented significant improvements over the draft WIPs, enabling EPA to reduce and remove most federal "backstops" that had been included in the draft TMDL. Because of inadequacies in dealing with agriculture, EPA included a "backstop" measure in the final TMDL, that could lead to a requirement that WV regulate more of their animal feeding operations if they don't make sufficient progress reducing agricultural loads. In addition, because of some deficiencies in their plans to reduce pollution from stormwater and wastewater, EPA will be conducting "enhanced oversight" of these programs, potentially invoking more stringent measures in the future. View the Phase I evaluation for West Virginia (PDF).
In 2017, West Virginia and the other Bay states are to submit a Phase III WIP which will focus on ensuring that all practices are in place by 2025 as need to fully restore the Bay and its tidal waters.
Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website
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