Delaware has pledged to curb the nutrients and sediments that flow from its portion of the Chesapeake basin as part of a watershedwide effort to clean up the Bay by 2010.
Delaware Gov. Thomas Carper on Sept. 13 signed a “memorandum of understanding” that for the first time seeks nutrient reductions from the three upstream states that were never part of formal Bay cleanup agreements. Governors from New York and West Virginia are expected to sign the document, committing their states to abide by future nutrient reduction goals, within the next few weeks.
“We have an obligation to make sure that waterways originating in our state and flowing into the Chesapeake contribute to a healthy Bay,” Carper said as he signed the memorandum. “The citizens of Delaware will also benefit from having cleaner rivers and streams for fishing and other recreational activities.”
2ntil now, only the original Bay Program partners — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia — had agreed to specific nutrient reduction goals for the Bay.
In the past, commitments were not sought from Delaware, New York and West Virginia because only small parts of those states fall within the Bay watershed. Years ago, they were thought to generate too little pollution to affect the Chesapeake and were never included in the Bay Program’s original 40 percent nutrient reduction goal set in 1987.
But as officials believe huge additional nutrient and sediment reductions will be needed to achieve the “clean” Bay by 2010 as called for in the new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, no source is too small to tap.
Of the roughly 284 million pounds of nitrogen estimated to enter the Bay in an “average” year, about 11 percent — or 32 million pounds — stem from the three upstream states, according to Bay Program estimates. Of those, about 18 million pounds come from New York, 8 million from West Virginia and 6 million from Delaware.
Of the 20 million pounds of phosphorus that enters the Bay annually, about 1 million comes from New York, while Delaware and West Virginia each contribute about 600,000 pounds.
The new memorandum of understanding does not make Delaware, New York and West Virginia members of the Bay Program. As a result, they won’t participate in discussions about managing Bay resources or be bound to Chesapeake 2000 Agreements to curb growth, preserve open space and restore wetlands.
But the memorandum does bind the states to work toward achieving new, state-specific nutrient and sediment reduction goals that will be set by the Bay Program next year. In the past, the Bay Program has considered pollution from those outlying states to be “uncontrollable.”
“This watershedwide partnership will restore the mighty Chesapeake Bay’s living resources and help meet the necessary water quality standards,” Carper said.
The action is being driven by the EPA’s listing of the Bay on its “dirty waters” list. All impaired waters on that list are required to have a detailed cleanup plan known as a Total Maximum Daily Load. Under a court agreement, though, a TMDL does not have to be written for the Bay until 2011. To head off a TMDL, the Bay Program states called for cleaning up the Bay by 2010 in their Chesapeake 2000 Agreement.
Because a TMDL would allocate nutrient reductions to sources throughout the watershed, the upstream states would be drawn into its requirements if one is needed. Therefore, by accepting allocations from the Bay Program, they would be able to develop more flexible cleanup strategies than might be required if a TMDL is written and enforced.
“They are obviously going to be responsible for reductions under a classic TMDL allocation process,” said Bill Matuszeski, director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office. “This is a way to get ahead of that by receiving an allocation years in advance so they can work to try to achieve it before a TMDL hits.”
Also, while the upstream states won’t be eligible for any of the Bay Program’s $20-million-a-year budget, signing on to Chesapeake Bay cleanup goals is likely to help them attract other federal money, Matuszeski said.
“They know they have to get reductions in order to deal with the water quality programs both locally and downstream,” Matuszeski said. “And, if they need additional help, they can use the Chesapeake as one of the rationales.”
Already, New York has gained additional federal grants to begin installing nitrogen removal technology on some wastewater treatment plants in its portion of the watershed.
The Bay Program states are getting hundreds of millions of dollars from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program to help farmers install runoff control devices and other conservation practices. By signing the memorandum of understanding, the upstream states could bolster their chances of securing additional money from such programs.
Also, by accepting nutrient reduction allocations from the Bay Program, the upstream states would be able to participate in other interstate efforts to control pollution, such as a nutrient trading program which is being developed.
Ultimately, the memorandum is to be signed by the governors of all six states, the mayor of the District of Columbia, and the EPA administrator.
The EPA administrator’s signature is important, Matuszeski said, because it signals that the agency will not force a TMDL for the Bay until the states have a chance to develop and implement programs.
Memorandum of Understanding
Whereas, the Chesapeake Bay is a National Treasure for which we are responsible, due to our stewardship of the 64,000 square miles of land in its watershed, and the 111,000 miles of creeks, streams and rivers which run through our jurisdictions and ultimately into its waters; and
Whereas, over the years the Chesapeake Bay’s remarkable ecosystem has been impaired by the excess of nutrients and sediments flowing into it through its tributaries; and,
Whereas, the Chesapeake Bay Program, an internationally recognized intergovernmental effort has made measurable strides toward the restoration of the Bay and its living resources; and
Whereas that effort has been notable for its reliance on cooperative and consensus-based approaches for its greatest successes; and
Whereas, despite efforts to date, the tidal rivers and the Bay remain on the Clean Water Act list of impaired waters thereby requiring establishment of a total daily maximum daily load by May 2011 unless those waters meet applicable water quality standards by 2010; and
Whereas we have developed a process, based on advanced science and data acquisition, which integrates the cooperative and statutory water quality programs applicable to the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal tributaries, and enhances through watershedwide partnership the ability to restore the Bay’s living resources and meet the necessary water quality standards;
Now, therefore, we, the undersigned executives representing the District, state and federal entities with responsibility for the quality of the waters flowing into the Chesapeake Bay agree that we will:
- Work cooperatively to achieve the nutrient and sediment reduction targets that we agree are necessary to achieve the goals of a clean Chesapeake Bay by 2010, thereby allowing the Chesapeake and its tribal tributaries to be removed from the list of impaired waters.
- Provide for an inclusive, open and comprehensive public participation process.
- Collaborate on the development and use of innovative measures such as effluent trading, cooperative implementation mechanisms, and expanded interstate agreements to achieve the necessary reductions.
By this Agreement, we will work toward our goals in a spirit open to others, welcome new ideas, pursue fairness and equity, seek the most cost-effective solutions, encourage collaborative approaches, and always be committed to the common goal of a healthy and productive Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. We agree to report annually to the citizens on the progress toward achieving the goals of this agreement.