Nutrient removal article misleading on costs

I read the article “Report touts less costly ways to clean Bay” [December 2004] with much interest and disappointment. The report clearly indicates that implemented nutrient management plans are a cost-effective method to reduce nutrient loading to the Bay.

While I agree that NMPs are effective in reducing nutrient runoff, one very clear and obvious flaw in the study stands out. When analyzing costs, the study assumes that an implemented plan does not include best management practices.

The figure mentioned in the report was $7 per acre, which is the cost for simply writing a NMP. It is the fee a farmer pays to a consultant for the NMP paperwork, spreadsheets and fancy maps.

This cost does not include the costs for BMPs that the NMP may identify to be implemented.

An NMP may and often does include some type of manure storage, barnyard runoff control practices, erosion control practices in the crop fields and even streambank fencing.

To assume that implementing a NMP only costs $7 an acre is absolutely irresponsible and untrue. These necessary BMPs can run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

Bay watershed states will now use this study to encourage and defend the spending of program dollars on NMP writing at the expense of installing necessary BMPs.

A nutrient management plan goes beyond the fancy calculations, pretty maps and pages of spreadsheets! I've worked for the Adams County Conservation District in Gettysburg, PA for more than 14 years trying to implement these necessary, worthwhile and often very pricey BMPs in order to improve the water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

An incomplete and erroneous report such as this jeopardizes my ability to offer financial assistance to farmers to continue this important work.

Brian Sneeringer
Gettysburg, PA

Wetlands volunteers praised for restoring Bay

At the end of November, it is hard to think of the warm, bright sunshine bathing the Dorchester County boat ramp in April and September. Those mornings, as we waited for the short boat ride that would take us to the shores of Barren Island, all we could think of was the fun, but exhausting, work ahead of us.

Although the activity may be just a pleasant memory in many people’s minds, their hard work has started to pay off. In just a matter of months, the 10.5 acres of newly planted wetlands look lush and natural. The young, 18-inch grasses that volunteers planted have grown to nearly 3 feet tall!

This year, we were able to plant nearly 150,000 grasses. We could not have accomplished such a feat without the 425 volunteers, many from Dorchester County, who donated their time and energy to restoring the Bay.

On behalf of the National Aquarium in Baltimore, I thank you for your efforts.

The grasses help to filter harmful nutrients from the Bay’s water; provide habitat to young crabs, fish and migratory birds; and absorb extra water to prevent flooding.

Additionally, the restored habitat helps to protect hundreds, if not thousands, of additional acres of seagrass beds, tidal marshes, oyster bars, maritime forests and other important Bay environments.

We thank you for your help in protecting our future and hope to see you in the field again next spring!

Glenn Page
Director of Conservation
National Aquarium in Baltimore

Going to extremes not helpful for Bay

Such rhetoric! In the Bush/Kerry ads? No, in recent Chesapeake Bay and wastewater statements from polarized lobbies.

Many treatment plant and agriculture people are over-scaring taxpayers and politicians. Their inflated capital and operating costs for needed practices to help the Bay are trying to overwhelm the discussion of benefits and options.

Building the fire, many environmental/lawyer lobbies are also issuing scary statements, with alarmist conclusions and warnings.

Granted, it is scary to consider how teams of lawyers with lots of funds might affect the necessary workings of public decision-making, science and engineering.

Meanwhile, more months slip away forever. Proven, minimal-cost practices and improvements to our management and prevention of wastes and energy usage are ignored, discounted or only done if our government pays almost 100 percent.

The astute study by Dr. Clifford W. Randall of Virginia Tech (See “Report says VA could great wastewater for half of early estimate,” Bay Journal, June 2004) outlined the technical and practical steps that would gain best nutrient removals at most of the major sewage plants in the Bay watershed for about one-half the capital cost and minimal increase in operating costs.

The response has been neither balanced nor innovative. The tributary strategy drafts show how very cost-effective riparian buffers can be if maintained perpetually. Will riparian owners always wait for federal funds?

Despite repeated calls for it, massive federal funding to restore the Bay seems unlikely for many years not to mention unfair to taxpayers outside our watershed.

It’s hard for folks not trained in wastewater and pollution issues to understand and work with the key Bay facts and trends. The Bay Journal’s coverage has been quite useful.

Ideas? During the 1950s and ’60s, we were told in school to be guided by the “Golden Rule.” We all live downstream. Let us follow “pollute unto others as we would have them pollute unto us.” That includes doing and paying your fair share for the needed management of your pollution.

John Reeves P.E.
Retired chemical engineer & Member of Virginia DEQ Technical Advisory Committee for technology-based nutrient limits in Bay discharge permits