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: TMDL

War on Rural Maryland?

Over the past year or so the phrase “war on rural Maryland” has appeared with increasing frequency in articles relating to environmental issues in the Chesapeake watershed. At first, it seemed like the work of lobbyists for developers opposed to smart growth restrictions on the destruction of forests and farmland for suburban sprawl. Then it was taken up by the public relations machine of poultry factories defending against charges of damaging Eastern Shore rivers with chicken manure. Now there is evidence that the war on rural Maryland is, at least in part, an element of a deceptive marketing campaign by an avaricious law firm.

On September 20, 2012, an attorney with the firm wrote to the Kent County Commissioners seeking engagement of the firm to represent the county in a “multi-pronged strategy to address the shortcomings of the various mandates and programs billed as Bay restoration actions…” One prong is possible litigation against the Environmental Protection Agency to invalidate parts of the bay wide “pollution diet”, or TMDL, that result in the requirement that counties take measures to reduce nutrient and sediment pollution.

It has been reported that the law firm has made similar solicitations to other Maryland counties and has quoted a fee of $30,000 per county.

The solicitation asserts that counties should be relieved of their pollution reduction obligations under the TMDL because pollution spilling over the Conowingo dam on the Susquehanna River “significantly eclipses [nutrient and sediment pollution] from all Maryland sources.”  The firm relies on a federal report issued in August that shows that pollution passing over the dam is somewhat greater than that predicted and incorporated in the pollution models that support the TMDL process, particularly following major storms. The firm’s assertion that pollution from the dam eclipses all Maryland sources is so at odds with the conclusions of the report that it is either intentionally or recklessly misleading. The author of the report has repudiated the law firm’s misuse of the report.

Moreover, the law firm’s suggestion that the TMDL obligations of counties to reduce pollution should be voided because there are other, larger polluters is ridiculous. It is like telling the judge that your speeding ticket should be torn up because other speeders were going faster than you.

The costs of reversing the degradation of our rivers, streams and the bay are significant and will require sacrifices from all counties, urban and rural. We need to work together to find more cost-effective ways to reduce pollution, including pollution from the Conowingo dam. Driving a wedge between urban and rural counties by promoting a culture of victimhood will hurt that effort.

The citizens and voters of the rural counties will decide for themselves whether they want to buy into the war on rural Maryland. My reaction to the law firm’s letter would not be to pick up my gun but to hold onto my wallet.

You can read the law firm’s solicitation and the federal report at these links: Funk & Bolton letter; and


Bob Gallagher

Shady Side, MD

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. Continue Reading

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

Va. Rep. Goodlatte Aims to Quash Bay Cleanup

(Posted by Dawn Stoltzfus.)

As has been rumored for many months — yesterday Virginia Congressman Bob Goodlatte introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives that would undercut the clean water act and essentially quash the multi-state Chesapeake Bay “TMDL” pollution diet cleanup process. This would be devastating, as many Bay scientists and advocates are hopeful that the TMDL and each State’s Watershed Implementation Plans could finally provide a solution to making our waters, and the Bay, fishable and swimmable again. Continue Reading

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

Nutrient Trading: Our Concerns

(Posted by Bill Dennison)

Nutrient trading is the buying and selling of nutrient reduction credits that have a monetary value for the reduction of either nitrogen or phosphorus loading to the waterways. The concept of nutrient trading is to unleash free market forces for nutrient reduction strategies, similar to the approach used with carbon trading to address global warming.

Nutrient trading is a relatively new concept in ecosystem restoration that has been initiated for the Chesapeake Bay. Using the new Google analysis tool (‘ngrams’), nutrient trading only appears in the literature around 1990, but has increased rapidly, with a doubling of citations roughly every three years. There is excitement about nutrient trading as a new approach, and this excitement is evident in the various policy statements explaining nutrient trading. Along with this excitement, there is considerable skepticism also evident, and the issue is often emotive.

The Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers group has reviewed the status of nutrient trading as applied to Chesapeake Bay restoration. We found that there are a variety of different definitions for nutrient trading being used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state agencies, and that there is a lack of data and case studies to support or refute assertions about nutrient trading. The fact that nutrient trading is complicated, emotive and data poor makes this approach one that deserves close scrutiny and scientific rigor. Within the Senior Bay Scientists and Policymakers group, our nutrient trading report is a carefully crafted consensus between fairly intense and polarized viewpoints and it took quite a bit of effort to strike this balance.
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