Tributary strategies—the road maps that describe how each major Bay river will meet its nutrient reduction goals—were expected to be completed by the end of April or early May, after more than a year of development.
Each strategy describes the mix of actions needed to achieve the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment limits for each river—and state—that were agreed upon by the watershed jurisdictions last spring.
The goal of those nutrient and sediment reductions is to achieve the clean water criteria established for the Bay last year.
The strategies are technically due April 30 under agreements signed last year, but not all will be final by that date. Although Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania have submitted draft strategies to meet their goals, all are going through public comment or other stakeholder involvement periods that will not be completed until May, or December in Pennsylvania’s case. Also, New York officials are not sure when they will complete their strategy.
Nonetheless, by the end of May, officials in the EPA’s Bay Program office hope to have enough information to complete their two-step analysis of the strategies.
The first step, using its Watershed Model, will analyze whether the specific actions outlined in the strategies will achieve the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment allocations that were agreed upon for each river.
The second step, using its Water Quality Model, will determine whether the combined strategies will achieve the new water quality criteria.
It’s possible that tributaries could meet their reduction goals, but fail to attain water quality goals because of variables such as the time of year that nutrients are actually delivered to the Bay under actions outlined in the strategies; nitrogen and phosphorus reductions each have different impacts at different times.
The Bay Program in its Chesapeake 2000 agreement committed to cleaning up the Bay by 2010. But it wasn’t until last spring, when officials completed work on new clean water criteria aimed at protecting aquatic life throughout the Bay, that nutrient and sediment reductions were set to attain the criteria.
All of the states have reported a difficult time developing the strategies. Watershedwide, nitrogen must be reduced to 175 million pounds a year (from 277 million pounds in 2002), and phosphorus to 12.8 million pounds (from 19.5 million in 2002).
“We knew the reduction goals for each basin were ambitious,” said Tayloe Murphy, Virginia’s Secretary of Natural Resources, in releasing draft strategies in April that are expected to cost $3.2 billion. “But looking at the number of practices and the levels of treatment needed to reach these goals really brings home just how imposing a task we have ahead of us.”
He said that Virginia would need to review “laws, statutes, authorities, roles and responsibilities that need to change to make implementation possible.”