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.

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Category Archives: Stormwater

The Session of the Bay

(Posted by Erik Michelsen)

In preparing for the 2012 Maryland Legislative session, the memories of largely unproductive sessions for the environment in 2010 and 2011 were very fresh. The combined environmental community – the Clean Water, Healthy Families coalition – resolved to be more focused, to pursue a direct request of legislators, and to focus on goals that would have a measurable impact on improving water quality. Those goals were:

• Finish upgrading the wastewater treatment plants that Maryland has already committed to upgrade.
• Ensure that local governments have resources to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and implement their local clean water plans.
• Reduce pollution from poorly planned development – including limiting new septic systems.
• Require that all wastewater discharges, including septic systems, are treated at the highest levels to protect public health and ensure clean water.

The first two goals were explicitly stated in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) and comprised the core funding strategies for the state’s efforts to address pollution from its central urban and suburban corridor. The last two were focused on ensuring that we don’t erase any gains we make via the first two by developing in a way that creates a staggering amount of new pollution.

As the clock ran down on the legislative session yesterday, the future of the Chesapeake and Maryland’s rivers hung in the balance. Early in the day, legislation to double the Bay Restoration Fund (or “flush fee”) passed, followed by a bill aimed at limiting sprawling growth by restricting where septic-served subdivisions can be located. The debate on a bill to require the 10 largest jurisdictions in the state to create dedicated stormwater restoration fees carried on late into the evening, with opponents, largely from the eastern shore and western Maryland, attempting to filibuster until the end of session, at midnight.

At one point, the floor leader for the bill, Senator Paul Pinsky, asked the opponents – many of whom had invented, and then promulgated, the notion of a “war on rural Maryland”  – why, when they opposed additional water quality regulations on farms on the grounds that agriculture wasn’t the only source of pollution to the bay,  they opposed a bill whose impacts fell most heavily on the densest areas of the state. The opponents fell back to a line of defense that can only be characterized as diversionary. They argued that Maryland’s overall pollution contribution was insignificant compared to the contribution of other states, that the cost of compliance was too expensive, and that the Chesapeake Bay TMDL “pollution diet” was in litigation, so there was no need to rush to address it.

Never mind the fact that the bill was aimed at jurisdictions with an MS4 stormwater permit, which has conditions and requirements that exist independent of the TMDL. Eventually though, the filibuster was shut down, those in favor of the bill in the Senate prevailed, and the bill was sent back to House and passed with 10 minutes to spare in the session.

The community still intends to pursue, through regulations, a requirement that all new septic systems be built using the best available technology, but we ended the evening with three of our four goals in hand and a strong commitment to address the fourth. There can be little doubt that the 2012 session will go down in Maryland lore as the “Session of the Bay,” despite the fact that it was tumultuous in many other respects.

And, with the close of the 2012, Maryland’s cities, town, and suburban enclaves are well positioned to meet their pollution reduction goals going forward. They have developed their plans and now have been given the tools to implement them in a timely fashion. There still remains important work to be done in other sectors, though, with Maryland’s nutrient management regulations still under consideration and an agricultural community divided over its willingness to be a full player in the recovery of Maryland’s most valuable natural resource. The session has ended, but the journey to restoration has just begun.

Maryland Clean Water Legislation Awaits Committee Votes

(Posted by Gerald Winegrad)

Maryland’s 2012 General Assembly Session is now more than halfway over, and while elected officials are currently focused on the state’s budget, several pieces of important Chesapeake Bay legislation that would help clean up our waters await committee votes.

Today the Executive Council of the Senior Scientists and Policymakers for the Bay delivered this letter to key legislators in support of the following legislation that is in line with our 25-step “action plan,”  specifically with respect to science-based recommendations to control agricultural pollution, foster clean development, upgrade septic systems, and improve wastewater treatment plants:Continue Reading

‘We Must Preserve an Economic Asset’

(This ninth installment in our series, What’s It Going to Take?, looks at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)

In this exclusive interview with the Bay Action Plan, Chesapeake Bay Program Director Nick DiPasquale says that the costs of cleaning the Chesapeake Bay are significant, but manageable.

“No time is a good time when you’re talking about trying to implement very costly pollution control measures,” DiPasquale said. “But when you spread that cost over the life of a project… you find that the cost to individual households is a few dollars a month. Compare it to cellphone or cable costs, it puts things into perspective.”

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Nutrient Trading, Poultry Farms and Planetary Finitude

(Posted by Stuart Clarke)

(This is the seventh in an ongoing series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)
Whats It Going to Take?

The Town Creek Foundation will be spending out our endowment and closing our doors in the next ten years. As we approach our sunset, we are working to blend our concern with achieving tangible progress restoring the Chesapeake Bay with our desire to help catalyze the systemic transformations necessary to make that progress sustainable.

We believe that Maryland’s efforts to restore the Bay have evolved to the point where a special window of opportunity has opened for substantial progress. With the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and the Watershed Implementation Plan process, Maryland has established clear goals, an ambitious timetable, and reasonably robust planning processes. Much work remains to be done to sustain this effort where it is strong and to strengthen it where it is weak, and over the next ten years we will be investing in this work.Continue Reading

It’s Time to Put Up or Shut Up

(Posted by Chris Trumbauer Anne Arundel County Councilman

(This is fifth in an ongoing series of posts on What’s It Going to Take?: A look at how the environmental community can regain the initiative and build the political will necessary to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.)
Whats It Going to Take?

If your family is like mine, the struggling economy is making every household economical decision a critical one. I cringed when I got my latest fuel oil bill and turned the thermostat down a couple of degrees to try and lessen the pain of the next bill. My wife and I both own fuel-efficient cars, but we still restrict driving as much as possible to delay filling up our tank as long as we can. Like many families, we are putting off important purchases, hoping to get a little more time out of a pair of shoes or a winter coat.

None of this, however, dampens my strong desire for clean water and healthy air. Pollution is pollution whether it contaminates our environment in a recession, or in an economic boom.
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Partnering for a Clean Bay: Providing Locals the Necessary Resources to Achieve Success

(Posted by Brenton McCloskey)

It takes the dedication and hard work of communities, businesses, individuals and – most of all, committed partnerships – to improve the health of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. With the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) prescribed “pollution diet” mandating new reductions in the Bay watershed, partnerships are essential now more than ever.  In order to meet the EPA’s target date to improve the Bay by 2025, the combined efforts of these concerned citizens and organizations is essential to successfully fulfilling these goals.

Local governments have been asked by the State, via federal mandates, to submit individual Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to meet local water quality goals. With the EPA requirements on a fast-track, it is important that Maryland maximize its available resources to ensure the Bay is healthy and economically viable now and into the future.
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