The EPA says five states and the District of Columbia have offered greater detail in their latest cleanup plans about how they will achieve the nutrient and sediment reductions required to clean up the Chesapeake.
The agency's review, which was released to the public May 30, indicated that Maryland, the District of Columbia, Delaware and West Virginia all submitted strong Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans.
It also indicated that Virginia and Pennsylvania submitted improved plans, but the agency still raised a number of concerns with each, especially regarding their stormwater programs, which the EPA said would require continued scrutiny.
New York, as of mid-June, had not submitted a final plan. EPA officials said in a statement that they expected it soon.
The Phase II WIPs are the latest step toward implementing the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, or "pollution diet," which the EPA approved in December 2010.
The TMDL set limits on the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that may reach the Bay. Those limits are intended to attain water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, water clarity, and chlorophyll a (a measure of algae) which are needed to allow fish, shellfish and other aquatic resources to thrive.
In instituting the TMDL, the EPA asserted far more regulatory authority over the Bay cleanup than it did during the previous quarter century of voluntary efforts by the states, which came up far short of meeting water goals. The TMDL calls for implementing all actions needed to clean up the Bay by 2025, and to have 60 percent of those actions in place by 2017.
To ensure efforts stay on track, the agency required states to write a series of plans providing detail about what actions they would take. The agency then reviewed the plans. If the EPA officials think state plans come up short in important areas — such as inadequate programs or a lack of funding to achieve goals — they can take a variety of actions, such as increasing oversight of state programs or, in some instances, expanding activities covered by regulations.
States wrote initial Phase I WIPs in fall 2010 showing how they would achieve pollution limits for each major sector, such as agriculture, wastewater treatment and stormwater. The new Phase II plans, which were submitted in March, added detail, including how pollution reduction goals would be met at the local level.
In its Phase II reviews, the EPA gave its best marks to plans from Maryland, Delaware and the District of Columbia, none of whose programs needed increased oversight.
West Virginia showed the most improvement, with the EPA upgrading the rating of its stormwater, wastewater and agriculture sectors based on stronger strategies, although it said the agency would maintain elevated oversight of West Virginia's agricultural sector.
Among the other plans that were received, Pennsylvania's had the most shortfalls. While the EPA said the state's wastewater sector no longer needed increased oversight, it continued to say the state's stormwater sector had significant shortfalls, and the WIP failed to provide clear strategies showing how it would achieve 40–50 percent nutrient and sediment reductions on urban lands.
Unless the plans are improved, the EPA said it could take a variety of actions, including targeting enforcement actions in the state or increasing regulations. The EPA also said it would maintain elevated oversight of the Pennsylvania's agricultural sector and its trading program, until improvements were made.
The EPA remained concerned about Virginia's stormwater program, saying the state needed, among other things, to develop a permit for major stormwater systems that was more enforceable. It said it would maintain increased oversight of that program.
Several state plans came up short in one key category. Neither Virginia's, Pennsylvania's nor West Virginia's final plans fully achieved the pollution targets set in the TMDL. Nor did the draft plan submitted earlier by New York. EPA officials were working with the states on changes that would bring their strategies into agreement with the goal of fully implementing all pollution reduction goals by 2025 and having 60 percent of those actions in place by 2017.
The EPA review also found that states had an uneven approach to incorporating local governments in the planning process. The EPA praised Maryland's "substantive outreach to local governments and stakeholders" which involved the development of county level plans. Several states relied on regional meetings, or working with officials in priority areas. The EPA expressed dismay with Virginia for failing to provide any clear local targets, which had been a major goal of the Phase II plans.
But EPA officials have described local involvement as an ongoing process that they expect states to continue in coming years.
Finalizing the Phase II plans ends an intense strategy-writing phase that has dominated much of the time of state agencies since late 2009. No new Watershed Implementation Plans are required until 2017 when, after a re-evaluation of goals, final plans will be written to carry the cleanup through 2025.
"While significant progress continues to be made across the watershed, the Phase II WIPs represent a transition from planning to implementing the necessary practices at the local level," said EPA mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin. "We will continue to work closely with the states and the District as we reaffirm our shared commitment for restoring this incredibly valuable national resource."
The state Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans, and the EPA's review of those plans, may be found on the EPA's Bay TMDL website: www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/