Editor's note: This is adapted from a presentation by Gary Allen, chairman of the Bay Program's Local Government Advisory Committee, to the Chesapeake Bay Commission earlier this year.
Some 1,653 local governments are located in the Bay watershed. They range dramatically in size and capacity to undertake projects in support of the Bay Program. The local role in Bay protection efforts has been traditionally defined by efforts to manage the use of land. It is a local responsibility given statutory authority granted them in each state. Local government land use controls manage development form, density and its impact on environmental resources. In recent years, local governments' role as manager of development has led to its lead responsibility in the area of sediment control and stormwater management. These responsibilities place local government at the front lines in our efforts to protect and/or restore Bay resources and improve water quality.
Traditional local government land management efforts are evolving. Today, watershed plans, greenway programs and forest protection programs established at the local level are common planning activities. Recycling and household hazardous waste collection programs are more evident at the local level than ever before. These programs have come to supplement the traditional planning activities at the local level and provide greater focus than ever before on the protection of environmental resources and tributary stream water quality.
The preparation of tributary nutrient reduction strategies over the past year has made it clear that local government is a vital and necessary partner in restoration efforts if implementation of these strategies is to be achieved. In most cases, reductions in point source nutrient loadings from wastewater treatment facilities must be accomplished if we are to achieve the targeted 40 percent reductions in nutrient loads to the Bay. As wastewater treatment plant operators, local government agencies have been, and clearly must continue to be involved in efforts to retrofit treatment facilities to meet nutrient reduction objectives by the year 2000.
Local governments' ability to effectively and skillfully manage the use of land will be equally critical since our objective is to retain lower nutrient loadings in the face of projected growth within the watershed beyond the year 2000. It is one thing to accomplish our 40 percent reduction target. It is quite another to maintain these lower level nutrient loadings in the face of growth. In short, the 40 percent nutrient reduction target has taken the Bay Program upstream and into the backyards of the watershed's many local governments. We are moving in new and previously uncharted directions.
Continued local successes in land use management will be critical to maintain the 40 percent nutrient reduction target once it is achieved. Aside from the always present need for financial assistance to underwrite some, or a portion, of the costs associated with many of the restoration activities that have been identified, there are a number of ways that the Bay Program can support an increasing level of local government involvement in restoration initiatives. I would like to highlight five of them.
First, we need to provide greater recognition and support of local accomplishments.
They represent successes by all participants in the Bay cleanup. The Bay Program's Local Government Advisory Committee's annual awards program provides some of this needed recognition, but a broader base of support and expression of interest by other levels of government needs to be brought to the table. In short, a new appreciation and expression of encouragement for local government efforts from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the states and federal agencies engaged in the cleanup needs to find expression. Rodney Dangerfield spent a career "not getting any respect." We can no longer afford to ignore the need for mutual respect among all participants in the Bay Program. Such respect provides the basis for greater stakeholder involvement and initiative by all participants.
Second, local governments need informateciation and expression of encouragement for local government efforts from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the states and federal agencies engaged in the cleanup needs to find expression. Rodney Dangerfield spent a career "not getting any respect." We can no longer afford to ignore the need for mutual respect among all participants in the Bay Program. Such respect provides the basis for greater stakeholder involvement and initiative by all participants.
Second, local governments need information and technical assistance concerning how their efforts can support Bay restoration objectives.
Local government needs to clearly understand what the expectations of state and federal agencies are before they can be expected to "put it right." Providing such information needs to be an objective of all the various subcommittees that focus on implementation of Bay Program objectives. Until state and federal participants identify their expectations in clear terms, the framework for local action will be a weak one, frequently lacking in clear definition. Such information should include what needs to be done, and why local government is the appropriate agent for accomplishing what needs to be done. Models that exemplify successful local responses to specific needs and which are transferable need to be identified. Moreover, information should identify likely cautions or pitfalls associated with undertaking restoration initiatives including likely costs and benefits. Such information should be accompanied by a realistic assessment of how such costs may be underwritten or financed. The states and federal government can and need to fulfill this technical assistance role in their efforts to encourage initiative and innovation at the local level. Projects of particular importance to specific states, which local governments are particularly well suited to undertake, also need to be selectively supported by funding assistance.
Third, local government's constituents need to be better educated and informed concerning restoration and cleanup needs to sustain support for local initiatives.
Local government action is most often a direct result of constituent interest in action. It's called politics. Citizens need to be better informed to secure their support of local investments in the Bay. The opinion survey conducted by the Bay Program's Communications Subcommittee in the past year clearly indicates that many residents of the Bay region still fail to recognize the causes of many of the problems the Bay faces. We must all work harder to assure the watershed's residents are better informed regarding the Bay's problems to foster an atmosphere that supports local initiatives to address nutrient reduction objectives.
Fourth, local governments need to feel a greater sense of "ownership" of restoration objectives.
For the most part, Bay restoration objectives have been defined by the states and federal agencies to date. While opportunity to comment on initiatives has been afforded local government through the Local Government Advisory Committee, our current needs warrant a larger and more direct role by which representative local governments can influence Bay Program policies as they evolve through the work of various committees and subcommittees. Local government officials and their staff need to be invited to be involved in charting the direction of the Bay Program. Shared ownership of initiatives by local governments will lead to their greater interest and stakeholder involvement in implementation.
Fifth, our vision needs to be better defined and brought into sharper focus.
In the area of growth management, the Bay Program and all its participants need to define the vision of the future Bay watershed. The legacy of the 2020 Panel visions established several years ago provided a first step in that direction. Our efforts to achieve those visions have been spotty. I would submit that a vision without equal focus on confronting the full range of issues which represent stumbling blocks to its achievement is a "blurred" vision. Within the Bay Program, we have made some progress in our efforts to protect sensitive resources, preserve farmland, and maintain rural character in many communities. In most cases we have defined where we don't want development to occur, but in few cases have we provided adequately for projected development in the watershed, determined where and how development should occur, and ascertained how we can provide the necessary services a future population will require. At all levels of government we are plagued with NIMBYism (The Not-In-My-Backyard-Syndrome). But its implicatiosensitive resources, preserve farmland, and maintain rural character in many communities. In most cases we have defined where we don't want development to occur, but in few cases have we provided adequately for projected development in the watershed, determined where and how development should occur, and ascertained how we can provide the necessary services a future population will require. At all levels of government we are plagued with NIMBYism (The Not-In-My-Backyard-Syndrome). But its implications are greatest at the local government level. We need to begin to deal more constructively with the flip side of resource protection and preservation, which is accepting growth and building or recreating "livable communities" and "sustainable" development patterns that are accepted by all our constituents.
In closing, let me suggest that redirection of some of the Bay Program's financial resources might go a long way toward increasing local government efforts and actions as a stakeholder in the Bay Program. Given funding limitations, such redirection is not likely in the near term. Absent such a fix, it will continue to be incumbent on all of us to seek alternative means of engaging greater participation by local governments in Bay Program restoration initiatives.