A key advisory committee said it is “disappointed and frustrated” with the status of tributary strategies being written to reduce pollution for major rivers in the watershed.
In a letter to senior state and federal officials overseeing the Chesapeake cleanup effort, the Bay Program’s Citizens Advisory Committee, which includes representatives from various stakeholder groups around the watershed, said the strategies completed so far provide too little detail about how they will be funded and implemented.
“The tributary strategies must contain measurable benchmarks with defined milestones in order to evaluate and assess 1) implementation of the measures called for on paper, 2) where we stand in meeting the 2010 goal,” the committee said in its letter.
“For the strategies to be meaningful, there must be interim goals that assess whether the strategies are working or not. Otherwise, the tributary strategies become a paper exercise.”
Last year, the Bay Program agreed to achieve sharp reductions in nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment by 2010 to clean up the Chesapeake Bay’s water.
Specific nutrient reduction goals were assigned to each state and major tributary in the watershed. States were to complete their “tributary strategies” describing what actions were needed to meet the goals by April 30.
Many strategies, though, are not fully completed, and all lack details about how they would be implemented and paid for—something expected to cost billions of dollars.
To meet the nutrient goals, the strategies call for greatly ramped-up nutrient control efforts, such as a 21-fold increase in fall cover crops, and a 17-fold increase in the amount of forested streamside buffers—goals that would be daunting to achieve by 2010.
In a message to the Bay Program Principals Staff Committee, which includes state department heads, the Region III EPA administrator and other senior officials, the citizens committee said that while many challenges face the states, citizens deserve “more immediate and substantial implementation of the strategies.”
At the meeting, state officials agreed to spell out more details about implementation by the end of the year. But after the discussion, they did not agree to set year-to-year benchmarks for implementation because issues such as funding would require legislative action.
In its message, the citizens committee said state efforts to assemble legislative packages “must begin now, not at the end of the year.”