The first time I interviewed anyone about TMDLs, a frustrated state official told me the acronym actually stood for “too many d*** lawyers.” Two decades later, that still seems to be the case as courts are still hammering out what Congress intended when it wrote the few sentences in the Clean Water Act that talk about total maximum daily loads.

But for now, federal District Court Judge Sylvia Rambo may have offered some clarity, at least for the Bay, by upholding the Chesapeake Bay TMDL with a strongly worded decision. Eleven-and-a-half months after oral arguments on the suit, Rambo rejected every issue raised in a suit challenging the most detailed and complex cleanup plan of its type.

“This wasn’t a judge that just kind of whipped off a 10-page opinion,” said Jon Mueller, an attorney with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, who was heavily involved in the case. “Ninety-eight pages is pretty darn long in my experience as a federal prosecutor. I think she covered all the bases and made a pretty ironclad decision.”

That said, there is still a lot of legal work for lawyers trying to resolve issues related to controlling nutrient and sediment pollution. Elsewhere in this issue, you will find Rona Kobell’s report about a West Virginia poultry farmer suing the EPA to get clarification over the extent of that agency’s ability to regulate animal feeding operations.

Other highlights to check out:

  • Tom Horton’s latest installment in the Growing Concern series, which examines the implications of economic and population growth in the Bay watershed, explores the ongoing experiment which is Calvert County, MD, where county commissioners have consciously tried to draw a line on new growth — a stark contrast to most other jurisdictions around the region.
  • With the ongoing dysfunction in Congress, Horton’s Chesapeake Born column about former Sen. Ed Muskie and the writing of the original Clean Water Act is also worth reading for a reminder that there actually was a time when our government seemed to work.
  • For uplifting news, Whitney Pipkin explores plans to incorporate state-of-the-art stormwater controls — often associated with higher-end developments— on a planned affordable housing project in Lexington, VA.
  • And, Leslie Middleton reports on efforts to bring the Chesapeake and its tributaries within reach of disabled paddlers who often find their access to waterways limited.
  • All that and eels, eastern meadowlarks, U.S. National Wildlife Refuges, oyster aquaculture and much more. Enjoy!

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