March 13, 2012
Latest Bay Clean-up Plan, Two-year Milestones, Make Progress But Lack Details, Funding, Accountability
Legislature can help by providing resources, key policy changes
(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has submitted formal comments on Maryland's Draft Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plan and Two-Year Milestones, expressing concerns that the state may not be able to finish cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay in coming years as promised.
"Maryland has made real progress making our water cleaner. We are more than half way to our goals. We applaud the state for pursuing funds to finish upgrading all major sewage plants, and for other recent actions," said Alison Prost, CBF Maryland Executive Director. "But to finish the job will require additional funding, specific policy changes and other concrete steps, some of which are missing from the state's updated plan and implementation timetable."
"The legislature must help provide adequate dedicated funding for upgrading sewage plants and stormwater systems, and policy changes to effectively manage pollution from sprawl development, or we risk further disappointment after decades of unfulfilled promises to restore a national treasure," Prost said.
Governor O'Malley and legislative leaders have demonstrated strong leadership in seeking to increase the Bay Restoration Fund (so-called "flush tax") in difficult economic times. The increase will allow Maryland to dramatically reduce nitrogen pollution at the state's 67 largest sewage plants, an investment that will pay off long term. The Governor and his administration also deserve praise for involving local governments in designing an effective blue print for future pollution reduction.
CBF, however, raised concerns about the state's Draft Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and the two-year milestones for 2012-2013 which implement those plans. In general, the concerns center on gaps between promises to accelerate the Bay's restoration (to meet specific pollution limits mandated by the EPA) and deficiencies of concrete implementation strategies.
Deficiencies in the documents include:
- No dedicated funding to improve local stormwater systems, which have been neglected. Maryland committed in the WIP to reduce nitrogen pollution from runoff by 20 percent between now and 2025, and to reduce phosphorous pollution from runoff by 30 percent.
- No concrete plans to accelerate reductions from septic pollution. The state has said it needs almost 28,000 septic upgrades by 2017, as well as connections to sewage plants, by 2025.
- No effective policy changes to reduce the number of new septic systems being installed—estimated at 116,000 by 2035—to require best available on-site waste disposal technology, or to offset new septic installations with pollution reductions elsewhere. The state has committed to reducing nitrogen pollution from septics by an additional 38 percent.
- No concrete plans or funding for accelerating new conservation measures on farms beyond current voluntary measures. The state has committed to an additional 23 percent reduction of nitrogen pollution from agricultural.
- No details on geographic targeting for planned activities to meet milestones or interim load reductions by 2017.
- Lack of clarity about how local governments would be held accountable for their "fair share" of pollution reduction activities in the absence of specific permits, and what consequences might be applied for inaction or inadequate action by those jurisdictions.
The Watershed Implementation Plans are blueprints for action through 2025. The milestones provide concrete timetables for the next two years.
"This is the moment in time for the Bay. We can provide thousands of jobs for Marylanders, and clean water for our children and grandchildren to enjoy. But if we falter now, the window of opportunity closes, perhaps forever," Prost said.