Monday, December 16, 2019

Clean Water Initiatives in the Governor's Budget

Last week our Governor, Ralph Northam, began releasing to committees the pertinent portions for each committee of his proposed 2020-2022 biennial budget which will be released on December 17th in an address to the Joint Money Committees of the state General Assembly.

The Governor has proposed $400 million in clean water funding to be used to actually follow through with the third Phase of the Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP III) to meet the 2025 nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reduction goals for the Chesapeake Bay mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection.

In 2010 the EPA set a limit for release of nutrients into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This limit is called a TMDL and was about a 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20 % reduction in sediment from the 2011 levels that was to be achieved by 2025. The pollution limits were then partitioned to the various states and river basins based on the Chesapeake Bay computer modeling tools and monitoring data. The WIPs are the road maps on how to get to that level that each state was required to submit to and be approved by the EPA. These days in a rebranding, the WIPs are being referred to as "the clean water blueprint" for the Bay.

Nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution can be from either a point source or a non-point source. Point source pollution is from an identifiable source, such as a waste water treatment plant. Non-point source pollution is more diffuse and harder to track, as runoff from lawns, farmlands and paved surfaces carry pollutants into streams draining to the Chesapeake Bay. A growing human population and increased development adds to pollution and stresses the forests and natural areas, which function as filtration and surface and groundwater recharge areas.

The Governor’s budget will have $400 million for clean water divided between better storm water management, continued improvements in waste water treatment in the Commonwealth, and continued reduction in agricultural runoff. The new WIP III targets more areas of non-point source pollution that the Governor did not address in his budget talk. The WIPs identifies dozens of small reductions in sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus released from our homes and communities that each of us will have to make and keep making every years as well as reductions from our communities, schools, public buildings, parks, roads that will all need local action.

The Governor’s budget targets :
  • Better storm water management especially from the unregulated urbanized lands. To that end the Governor’s budget will increase DEQ’s Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF) and fully fund DEQ.
  • The Governor’s budget and additional legislation proposed by the Governor will require all farmers to participate. All farmers will be required by law to sign up for Nutrient Management Plans on their land and all animal operations to sign up for stream exclusion fencing. The Governor stated in his speech that implementation of these programs would take place as funds became available to the cost share program, though not all costs are paid by the cost share program, the farmers will cover the other costs. The Governor is proposing to fund the cost share programs with $150 million in this budget.
With control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion it is expected that all these plans will be implemented. Your can listen to the Governor's comments on his Facebook page. It is open to even nonmember like me. 

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