Better, but not good enough. That's how the Chesapeake Bay Foundation sized up Pennsylvania's Watershed [cleanup] Implementation Plan in last week's letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Acknowledging many changes to the initial draft WIP, "we applaud the state's open process that involved many stakeholders," said Matthew Ehrhart, CBF's director in Pennsylvania. "But the Commonwealth hasn't completed the job, yet."
"The Commonwealth made significant improvements towards ensuring compliance with existing laws for, and resulting reductions from, the largest source of pollution loads – agriculture." But Ehrhart charges that enforcement has been severely lacking.
He estimates that more than half of Pennsylvania farms don't have current conservation and/or manure management plans fully implemented. The state is now proposing an aggressive education and enforcement program to change that. The goal is to have all 40,000 of the estimated watershed farms in baseline compliance in seven years.
Where's the money?
CBF insists that more must be done to reduce agriculture's nutrient contributions to the bay. Ehrhart called for a clear commitment to expand the PennVest funding initiative for nonpoint source projects.
CBF urged that the REAP tax credit program and the conservation districts must be funded at $10 million each, along with other program enhancements, to achieve necessary reductions. Those funds have been cut back substantially due to state budget shortfalls.
The environmental group also complained that the WIP was substantially deficient in addressing stormwater pollution. The plan, according to CBF lacks fundamental details on how limiting pollution from lawn fertilizers and enforcement strategies could be achieved.
"Polluted runoff from our cities and suburbs degrades over 4,200 miles of Commonwealth streams and remains the only source of water pollution in Pennsylvania that's increasing," claims Ehrhart. "If the Commonwealth fails to do so, then EPA will have no alternative but to exercise its statutory responsibility under the Clean Water Act and require additional actions be taken."
Note: Chesapeake Bay Foundation has not offered to put up cost-share money for what it proposes. Nor has it proposed where the necessary funds would come from in the deficit-budget commonwealth.