Monday, May 24, 2010

Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed

The “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” was developed under President Obama’s Executive Order 13508 issued in May 2009. The Strategy was released in May 2010 and outlines actions that will be taken by each federal agency to control pollution, restore habitat and wildlife, conserve land, and increase public awareness and accountability in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. EPA Administrator Jackson stated in her announcement that the EPA will implement broad conservation and restoration efforts and prevents pollution from the urban, suburban and rural areas that feed into the Bay. The new federal strategy for the Chesapeake Bay region of the 64,000-square-mile watershed includes using federal regulations to restore clean water, implement new conservation practices on four-million acres of farms, conserve an additional two-million acres of undeveloped land, and restore the habitat for key species such as oysters, black ducks, and brook trout. The combined agencies and states will be held accountable to achieve specific milestones every two years to ensure measurable progress.

While there is overlap between the recently announced settlement agreement and Strategy, they are not the same. The settlement agreement resolves the lawsuit brought by former Maryland State Senator Bernard Fowler, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland and Virginia watermen’s associations, and others filed against the EPA in January 2009 alleging the Agency failed to fulfill its duties under the Clean Water Act (CWA) and the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. EPA settled the lawsuit with the “settlement agreement,” which requires EPA to:
Establish and implement a Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load, TMDL, for nutrients and sediments. This will include reviewing watershed implementation plans (WIPs) by the Chesapeake Bay watershed states and the District of Columbia to ensure those jurisdictions achieve the nutrient and sediment allocations under the TMDL.
Review state-issued permits, including proposed construction general permits and NPDES permits for “significant point source discharges of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment” in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Develop new storm water regulations by 2012 and concentrated animal feeding operation (CAFO) regulations by 2014.
Issue guidance on permitting for municipal separate storm sewer systems.

The Strategy is far more sweeping in its goals as outlined in the full muti-color 173 page text available at: .

The Strategy sets four main goals for Bay restoration and identifies “key environmental outcomes” and “supporting strategies” that are intended to help accomplish these goals and complement the multi agency efforts to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. The goals are to: restore clean water; recover habitat; sustain fish and wildlife; and conserve land and increase public access.
Among the federal actions identified in the Strategy, EPA must establish and implement the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and an associated “accountability framework.”

The Executive Order established the Federal Leadership Committee (FLC) for the Chesapeake Bay, which is chaired by the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and includes senior representatives from the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Homeland Security, Interior and Transportation. The Executive Order charged the FLC with developing and implementing a new strategy for protection and restoration of the Chesapeake region. The FLC is intended to support and guide the local efforts. The strategy is intended to support the restoration activities of state and local governments, watershed groups, county conservation districts, landowners and citizens.

The FLC is also charged with developing “key environmental outcomes” that include: Expand Citizen Stewardship. Respond to Climate Change. Develop Environmental Markets and Strengthen Science. Apparently, creating environmental markets is the current darling of the regulatory movement. Selling water release rights and creating a market for these rights is will make non-point source reduction possible and quantifiable.
The Executive Order directs the FLC to expand its role beyond just producing the strategy, to: “Oversee development, coordination and implementation of new federal programs and activities for Chesapeake Bay restoration. Collaborate with state partners to ensure that federal actions are closely coordinated with actions by state and local agencies and resources are used efficiently. Consult with stakeholder groups and the general public. Define milestones for meeting goals. Track and report on restoration activities and spending. Publish an annual Action Plan describing how federal funding will be used. Publish an annual Progress Report on environmental health and restoration efforts. Utilize independent evaluation to strengthen accountability. Make all reports available to the public by posting on a web site. Describe and carry out a process for adaptive management. Federal agencies will join the states in establishing two-year milestones with many federal efforts designed to support the states and District in meeting their current and future water quality milestones.” Buried in this mind numbing list of bureaucratic meetings, spending and report writing is an expansion of federal regulatory control of non-point source pollution.

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