After decades of effort, the voluntary, collaborative approach to restoring the health and vitality of the Chesapeake Bay— the largest estuary in the United States—has not worked and, in fact, is failing. A diverse group of 57 senior scientists and policymakers have joined forces to save the Bay. This is our plan.

25-Step Action Plan

(For help understanding some technical terms, see our Acronym Glossary.)

An Action Primer

The sorry state of the Chesapeake Bay did not happen overnight and it will take many years to correct its problems. Without these 25 steps, listed below in six categories of pollution concerns, the Bay is doomed.

Significantly Reduce Farm Runoff

1. Discrete, performance-based targets for nutrient and sediment reductions from all nonpoint sources to improve water quality, including all Best Management Plans (BMP), should be required and assessments of those BMPs and reduction targets should be conducted by independent third-party entities.

2. Each state should adopt requirements to implement measures, including BMPs, throughout each waterway designated by the EPA for the entire Bay watershed. These are necessary to achieve the nutrient and sediment TMDLs by a date certain to meet “reasonable assurance” expectations. Detailed sanctions, including penalties, should be included for any source that fails to meet the TMDL or two-year milestones.

3. Reducing nonpoint source loads from agricultural operations, including any necessary new regulations and better enforcement, should be part of each state’s WIP and should be fully implemented. These must include readily enforceable mechanisms and independent monitoring.

4. States should significantly expand the CAFO designation to cover all but the smallest AFOs. All agricultural lands receiving manures from any AFO should be treated as a regulated entity/activity. It is equally important that assessment and accountability of all CAFOs and all other federal and state regulated agricultural activities be increased.

5. States should adopt requirements in their WIPs for all land disposal of animal waste/manure that parallel Maryland’s regulations under the Maryland Department of Environment for the land disposal of human sludge from advanced wastewater treatment facilities.

6. States’ WIPs should require that on any agricultural lands that receive human sludge and/or animal waste/manure, cover crops should be mandatory for a minimum of one year after application. Even with the use of cover crops, sludge and animal waste/manure should be required to be injected or incorporated into soils within 24 hours of application. Further, the practice of human sludge or animal waste/manure application to fields with excessive phosphorus levels must be stopped.

7. Greater accountability and verification of performance of agricultural BMPs is essential and must be required [in all WIPs ].

8. State’s [WIPs ] should mandate whole-farm water quality plans for all agricultural lands, including the next generation of nutrient management, with clear targets, a reasonable implementation schedule, progress checks and enforcement.

Control Development

9. While reducing agricultural nutrients and sediment loadings may be the immediate challenge as farm pollutants are the greatest source of loadings and the most cost-effective to reduce, offsetting the effects of population growth and development by 100 percent is essential to maintaining any progress made by other sectors. States should adopt measures to expand MS4 jurisdiction over more developed lands, better septic system requirements, and improved growth control measures as these are essential.

10. A requirement is critically needed for no net increases in storm water discharge rate, volume and pollutants for all new development for a five-year storm.

11. States should adopt improved water quality retrofit requirements for MS4 permits and for all developed lands including road construction or reconstruction, and all such MS4 permits should be required to meet the no net increase in rate, volume, and pollutants rule. For re-development, to the maximum extent practicable, no net increase in rate, volume, or pollutants should be required for a five-year storm and offsets required where this no-net increase requirement cannot be met.

12. States should adopt provisions for improved water quality through systematic urban retrofits of large areas of developed lands such as shopping centers, large industrial sites and other large impervious surfaced areas in private ownership, with mandatory measures and timelines for such retrofits.

13. Measures to reduce or eliminate fertilizer usage on residential lawns, golf courses and public lands should be adopted and included in WIPs, including measures to prohibit phosphorus in fertilizers sold for maintenance of such properties.

14. States should ensure that all federal and state facilities and public lands in the watershed undertake storm water retrofits to meet TMDL allocations and two-year milestones. The federal and state facilities and lands should follow guidance developed by EPA pursuant to Section 438 of the Energy Independence and Security Act and Section 502 of Chesapeake Bay Executive Order (13508).

Protect Forests / Plant Trees

15. States should require a no net loss of forest coverage in each Bay watershed of the 92 waterway segments to achieve the nutrient and sediment TMDLs by a date certain to meet “reasonable assurance” expectations. States should include in their WIPs and implement detailed measures to expand forested buffer coverage to at least 85 percent of all the shores of the Bay and its tributaries.

16. States should target funds for the fee simple or easement purchase of sensitive lands such as forests and wetlands on private lands and farm lands, especially those bordering the Bay and its rivers. Acquisitions should take into consideration State Wildlife Action Plans and Green Infrastructure maps that have been updated to reflect the implications of climate change and expected sea level rise.

Upgrade Septic Systems

17. WIPs must include and states should adopt provisions that require all new and replacement OSWDS in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to be systems that utilize the BAT for nitrogen removal.

18. States should adopt requirements for implementation of a mandatory septic inspection program for existing systems, with a requirement for a BAT system for nitrogen removal in failing systems.

19. WIPs should contain and states should adopt requirements to evaluate existing clusters of septic systems for connection to centralized sewage treatment that uses Enhanced Nutrient Removal (ENR).

Clean Air

20. WIPs should contain provisions for better control of air emissions by better regulating and enforcing emission controls from all sources.

21. All new stationary sources of air emissions that contribute increased nitrogen to the Bay should be offset and WIPs must include provisions for accomplishing this offset.

Improve WWTPs

22. All WWTPs should be required to meet nutrient discharge limits of no more than 3.0 mg/l Nitrogen and 0.3 mg/l Phosphorus in the WIP.

23. States should allocate WWTP pollution loads based on 2010 wastewater flows, assuming a concentration of 3.0 mg/l of nitrogen and 0.3 mg/l of phosphorus. Any increased nitrogen or phosphorus loads with flows beyond 2010 actual flow levels must be offset with equal or greater reductions from other sources.

24. States must aggressively address and fund infrastructure upgrades to prevent and treat combined sewer overflows.

25. States should adopt measures to assure that existing Clean Water Act and other water quality laws are fully enforced, including at all WWTPs .