Nearly one year after President Obama's Chesapeake Bay executive order mandating more action in the bay clean up, federal officials recently unveiled a timeline and water quality targets to be met by watershed states. And, the administration has been mobilizing the Environmental Protection Agency, USDA and the Department of Interior to bring it home – your home.
Past efforts by the watershed states – Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia – haven't been good enough, "not nearly enough." declared Lisa Jackson, U.S. EPA administrator. "The bay remains one of our nation's greatest environmental challenges."
"We will help the bay watershed's farmers and forest owners put new conservation practices on 4 million acres of agricultural lands to build on the improvements in nutrient and sediment reductions that we have seen over the last 25 years," added Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack.
Over the next five years, $638 million has been promised and targeted to high priority watershed areas. It must be noted, however, that those monies have yet to be budgeted, approved by Congress and released.
TDML targets and tracking
U.S. EPA expects each state to enforce plans that will meet defined goals for total maximum daily load set on two-year intervals for every creek, stream and river of the 64,000-square-mile watershed.
Regulations and TMDL targets are being set for agriculture. But upgrading of municipal sewage treatment plants and urban storm water runoff are expected to claim the largest share of federal dollars.
Details of draft reports on seven key areas are posted on the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order Web site: http://executiveorder.chesapeakebay.net. The land management section can be found at: www.epa.gov/nps/chesbay502/ . It offers guidance on what's ahead for six key areas including agriculture, forestry, riparian area management and decentralized wastewater treatment (septic) systems. Enforcement of septic provisions, for instance, will impact countless rural homes.
Time line for implementation
Here's a glance at highlights from the time line deadlines – for agriculture only – that's already keeping people awake at night:
• By June 1, 2010: States must submit preliminary watershed implementation plans for animal feedlots, septic systems and construction sites. Plans must estimate nitrogen and phosphorus reductions to be achieved, and whether existing state programs and funding can achieve them.
• By July 1, 2010: EPA must finish reviewing the state plans. If found insufficient to meet nutrient goals, the states will be asked to revise them.
• By Oct. 15, 2010: Draft TMDLs and watershed plans will be released for a 60-day public review and comment. It'll include meetings and hearings in each state. State and federal agencies will provide written responses to comments.
• By Nov. 1, 2010: States must submit final watershed implementation plans. If state plans are insufficient, EPA may impose consequences, such as loss of federal funds or greater nutrient reductions from wastewater treatment plants and other regulated dischargers.
• By Dec. 31, 2010: Final TMDLs will be published in the Federal Register.
• By Jan. 1, 2011: States must start work on Phase II plans, setting nutrient and sediment goals for local levels -- to make them more "real" for local governments, agencies and conservation districts that will need to take most of the actions. The aim of local allocations is to improve accountability and track nutrient and sediment control actions.
• By Dec. 31, 2011: Each state must reach its first nutrient and sediment reduction milestone. Then the plan shifts to a series of biennial milestones spelling out the specific nutrient and sediment reductions, and actions needed to keep bay restoration on track.
• By Jan. 1, 2017: Each state must submit Phase III plans, updated with lessons learned in previous years.
• By Dec. 31, 2017: States must be on track to achieve 60% of the nutrient and sediment reduction goals.
• By Dec. 31, 2025: All actions to achieve Bay water quality standards must be implemented.
EPA, according to Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepa, expects to propose new regulations for concentrated animal feeding operations in the Chesapeake watershed in 2012.
USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service is already at work, targeting existing monies to priority watersheds and conservation practices, reports NRCS Chief Dave White. The 2008 Farm Bill allocated $43 million in fiscal year 2010 and $72 million in 2011 for the Chesapeake initiative. Future NRCS funding priorities are likely to shift toward its Conservation Innovation Grants, aiming at emerging conservation technologies, manure management and clean water technologies.