Thursday, September 16, 2010

More on Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan

“The Chesapeake Bay is truly a national treasure and an ecological wonder. As Virginians, we have an obligation to protect this incredible resource, and we are all committed to ensuring a clean and vibrant Chesapeake Bay for future generations to enjoy and cherish.” Thus begins the introduction of Virginia’s Watershed Implementation Plan, WIP, to the Environmental Protection Agency. The Chesapeake Bay watershed is more than that, it is our water and our life. Unless the Chesapeake Bay watershed is protected our groundwater and all our drinking water are at risk.

To cleanup of the Chesapeake the EPA has determined that nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from waste water plants, septic, agriculture, urban/ suburban runoff and forest land runoff will have to be reduced. The EPA has divided the Chesapeake Bay Watershed into 92 geographical segments and assigned maximum loads for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment to each segment. Although the Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load, TMDL, is often discussed and thought of conceptually as a single TMDL, it is comprised of 92 separate segments with different sources of contamination and different TMDLs. Virginia lands drain into 39 of these segments within the watershed. All 39 segments are listed as impaired for excessive nutrients and sediments and thus each area within Virginia that is part of the Chesapeake Bay water shed needs to reduce the amount of sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus that is released to the Chesapeake from urban/ suburban run off, waste treatment plants, industrial plants, agricultural runoff, forest lands, and septic.

The WIP that Virginia submitted is fairly generic because it does not confer any additional regulatory or legal authority to governmental agencies nor does it propose to make any specific changes beyond expanding the Virginia nutrient credit program to allow the most cost effective pollution reduction strategies to be implemented statewide. However, the WIP does talk about future regulatory expansions. Any programs or strategies that are not currently authorized by state law may be pursued through the legislative process or through the Virginia Administrative Process Act, but those decisions are left for the future. Virginia is also bound by the provisions of state law that require cost evaluations along with a benefit analysis for implementation plans.

The Department of Natural Resources formed an advisory group last winter that seemed to include every regulator, business interest and environmental group, but failed to include representation for the Virginia homeowner. According to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation half of Virginia is drained by Chesapeake Bay watershed rivers, and two-thirds of the state's population lives within the Bay watershed. In addition there are 536,000 homes with septic systems within the Bay watershed. The WIP will control building, remodeling of homes, road construction, lawn maintenance, possibly increase requirements on homeowners with septic systems or require neighborhoods to install storm water management systems. Restoring the Chesapeake Bay and protecting the water for fishing recreation and water supply will cost money and impact our lives and the value of our property. Two thirds of the homeowners in Virginia live within the Chesapeake Bay watershed and they should have the most powerful say in how the TMDL is implemented in our neighborhoods.

The EPA will be having a series of public meetings and webinars attend one of the meetings. You need to be informed and look out for your interests because no one else is. The Virginia meetings are October 4th from 6-8 p.m. at the Grafton Theatre, James Madison University, 281 Warren Service Drive, Harrisonburg, VA.
October 5th - from 6-8 p.m. Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale Campus, Ernst Community Cultural Center, 8333 Little River Turnpike, Annandale VA
October 7th from 6-8 p.m. Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina Hotel, 700 Settlers Landing Road, Hampton, VA. There is also a webinar on October 7th from 1-3 pm

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