The Chesapeake Bay Foundation agrees with David Bancroft's assessment that a Baywide Total Maximum Daily Load is not an instant cure-all for the Bay. He is wrong, though, in suggesting that the TMDL will represent little more than just the "status quo" for Bay restoration efforts.
With the newly refined watershed model, the EPA has the capability under the new TMDL of allocating pollutant loads down to the local level (e.g., county, subwatershed). There are many advantages for allocating down to these levels. County level allocations will make the nitrogen pollution reduction caps "real" to local citizens and local governments, and drive the implementation of pollution reduction measures. Some Bay jurisdictions, like Richmond County, VA, are already asking for their local pollution load allocations.
More importantly, the TMDL's local caps will force land use decisions that result in no increases in pollution loads and the strict implementation of the antidegradation provisions of the Clean Water Act. These local caps are, in fact, a natural extension of the "no impact development" policy being advocated by the Chesapeake Bay Program.
In addition, a recent report by the EPA Inspector General on development in the Bay watershed reaffirmed the need for "community level loading caps." The result will be no new increased pollution loads from development.
The impacts of a TMDL also extend to stormwater permitting. The EPA requires that TMDLs include "municipal separate storm sewer systems" (MS4s) as part of the point source allocation. To ensure accountability and compliance with the Clean Water Act, MS4 permits will need to have specific allocations (or numeric load limits) incorporated.
The CBF is already working in partnership with other stakeholder groups in Maryland to ensure that the Montgomery County Phase I MS4 permit, when reissued, has not only numeric pollution limits but also measures that will lead to greater accountability in achieving those limits. In Virginia, the CBF is taking a similar position with the proposed Phase II MS4 general permit.
Finally, with EPA guidelines stating that a TMDL must provide "reasonable assurance" of achievement of non-point source reductions, new controls on unregulated runoff will be necessary. The implementation of TMDLs will necessitate that local ordinances, grant conditions and other enforcement authorities are in place to ensure nonpoint source pollution reductions.
The reality is that had the signatories to the Chesapeake 2000 agreement fully honored their commitments and acted more quickly to put in place the programs and funding necessary to reduce pollution, they could have avoided the complexities and oversight of a TMDL.
But they did not do so. And while a TMDL isn't a cure-all, it isn't a placebo either. In fact, it may be just what is needed to get the job done.