Bay Journal

March 2005 - Volume 15 - Number 1

Bay states to campaign for federal funds amid difficult budget climate

Dreams of a big Bay financial boost from the federal government have collided with budget reality. The governors of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia pledged at the January Chesapeake Executive Council meeting to pursue billions of dollars in federal funds for the Bay cleanup effort and pledged to lobby both the administration and Congress for the cash.

“We will be up in the halls of Congress within the next 45 days to lobby for that increased federal support,” said Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, the outgoing chair of the council, at the Jan. 10 meeting. ...

Monitoring Offers Mixed Verdict

Monitoring of the Bay’s nontidal rivers offered a mixed verdict for 2003. Near-record flows left the Chesapeake awash in nutrients and sediment during 2003. Yet when adjusted for flow, nutrient concentrations in many, though not all, of the watershed’s major rivers had declining trends.

That was not much of a silver lining for fish, crabs and grass beds, which were hard hit by huge amount of nutrients and sediment swept into the Bay by the third highest level of river flow recorded since 1937. ...

36 Tributary Strategies Will Guide Cleanup Efforts

The road maps used by states to get to cleaner rivers, and a cleaner Bay, are called tributary strategies. They are river-specific plans that spell out in detail exactly what mix of actions is required to meet the nutrient and sediment goals for each basin: the miles of riparian forest buffers that must be restored, the number of acres of cover crops that must be planted, the number of wastewater treatment plants upgraded, and so on.

During 2003 and 2004, the six states in the watershed and the District of Columbia worked to write a total of 36 tributary strategies. The area covered by an individual strategy generally is a state’s portion of a particular river basin (the Potomac, for instance, has separate strategies for Virginia, Maryland, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia.) Also, some large rivers, such as the Susquehanna, are divided into subbasins within states in order to write more localized strategies—there were 13 in Pennsylvania alone. ...

D.C., Maryland Lead Efforts To Reduce Nutrients

In 1983, the Chesapeake Bay Program was formed, comprising members of the federal government, and the jurisdictions of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Beginning in 1987, controlling nutrients became a main focus of their Bay restoration efforts. But by 2000, it became clear that the magnitude of the nutrient reduction effort would also require participation by headwater states that had not been previously involved: Delaware, New York and West Virginia. Each signed an agreement to cooperate in reducing nutrient and sediment pollution to the Bay, making the Chesapeake Bay cleanup a truly watershedwide restoration effort. ...

Getting The Biggest Bang For Bay’s Cleanup Bucks

The biggest questions about the Bay cleanup may be the most important: How much will it cost, and where will the money come from?

According to Bay Program figures, fully implementing tributary strategies written by the states could cost about $28 billion in upfront capital costs, plus another $2.7 billion in costs that would recur each year, such as the operation and maintenance of wastewater treatment plants and stormwater controls, as well as annual payments to farmers for conservation efforts. ...

Point Sources Make Major Gains In Reducing Nutrients

Pollution control efforts at many “point sources”—wastewater treatment plants and factories that discharge into waterways through a pipe—have resulted in some of the greatest nutrient reduction efforts in the watershed.

In 1985, those point sources delivered 87.7 million pounds of nitrogen to the Chesapeake. That fell to 58.4 million pounds in 2002. Phosphorus discharges during the same period decreased from 9.2 million pounds to 4.3 million. The reductions took place even as 2.5 million additional people moved into the watershed. ...

Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Sediment Loads by River Basin: Understanding These Tables

The attached charts (.pdf files below) present the model-estimated amount of nitrogen and phosphorus reaching the Bay (also called “loads”) from various sources by major river basin and by political jurisdiction within each basin.

The figures also show the model-estimated amount of change from 1985, the baseline for measuring nutrient reductions. Negative percentages represent decreases, positive percentages represent increases. ...

The Watershed Model

Estimates of the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus entering the Chesapeake are made by the Bay Program’s Watershed Model. It is a computer model that can be thought of as a giant accounting program: It tracks nutrient reduction efforts taking place throughout the watershed and estimates cleanup progress.

The model divides the Bay’s 64,000-square-mile watershed into more than 94 river basin segments. Using information about land use as well as human and agricultural animal populations in each segment, it calculates the amount of nutrients and sediments likely to enter rivers or groundwater. Information about discharges from wastewater treatment plants and industries is also incorporated. The model simulates the transport of nutrients and sediments downstream toward the Bay. The closer a segment is to the Chesapeake, the more its nutrients will be “delivered” to tidal waters. The farther away, the greater chance that some nutrients, mainly nitrogen, will be removed by biological or chemical processes. ...

The Bay Cleanup - Where We’ve Been & Where We’re Headed

A timeline of major milestones in the Bay cleanup effort:

  • In 1987, the original Bay states (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia) set a 40 percent reduction goal for nitrogen and phosphorus to improve low-oxygen conditions in deep parts of the Bay. The goal was to be met in 2000.
  • In 1988, the goal was redefined to mean a 40 percent reduction from “controllable” sources, which substantially lowered the amount of nutrient reductions needed. The new goal equaled a 20 percent reduction for nitrogen and 31 percent reduction for phosphorus.
  • To meet that Baywide goal, specific nitrogen and phosphorus allocations were given to each major tributary in 1992. Tributary strategies were developed to meet the goals.
  • In 1999, the EPA determined that the Chesapeake was not attaining existing state water quality standards. The agency said it would require a mandatory cleanup plan, known as a Total Maximum Daily Load, for the watershed unless it meets water quality standards before 2011.
  • In 2000, most nitrogen goals for rivers were missed, although some phosphorus goals were met.
  • The Chesapeake 2000 agreement called for cleaning up the Bay by 2010 to avert the need for a regulatory Total Maximum Daily Load.
  • The states of New York, Delaware and West Virginia, which would be affected by a TMDL, have agreed to join nutrient reduction efforts.
  • In Spring 2003, all jurisdictions in the watershed agreed to new water quality criteria aimed at supporting fish, shellfish, grass beds and other important Bay species. They also agree to make sharp nutrient and sediment reductions to achieve the criteria, and states with tidal waters began the process of adopting those criteria into state water quality standards. Meeting those standards became the 2010 cleanup goal.
  • In 2005-06, states will complete the process of adopting the Bay water quality criteria into state water quality standards/regulations.
  • In 2007, officials will review the nutrient and sediment goals to determine whether the cleanup program is on track and whether adjustments are needed.
  • By Dec. 31, 2010, the actions needed to attain state water quality standards are to be implemented.


Where Nutrients Originate

These are average nutrient “loads” from various sources to local streams as estimated by the Watershed Model, except for point sources, which are based on discharge data, For land uses, two key factors affect runoff amounts: the amount of nutrient runoff per acre and the number of acres. Forests generate less nutrients per acre than other uses, but cover more area, making them a relatively large nutrient source. Other land uses contribute more per acre, but cover less area. Pounds per acre changes reflect improved runoff control efforts or improved estimates. ...

Air Pollution & The Bay

Huge amounts of nitrogen are deposited on the watershed as the result of air pollution. Much of it is taken up by plants, but a sizable amount still runs off the land and enters the Bay. Estimates vary, but somewhere between a quarter and a third of all the nitrogen entering the Bay stems from air pollution.

It arrives in two main forms. About two-thirds is the result of nitrogen oxide emissions from fossil fuel combustion, including such sources as cars, power plants, industries, trucks, boats, tractors, lawn mowers and almost anything that burns oil or coal. ...

How allocations were made

Setting science-based water quality criteria and designated uses is one thing; figuring out how to actually meet those cleanup goals in the water is another.

To do that, the Bay Program turned to computer models backed up by decades of monitoring and research. Using its Watershed Model, which estimates the amount of nutrients flushed out of the Chesapeake’s drainage basin and into the Bay, officials calculated the levels of nitrogen and phosphorus reductions that might be achieved under various levels of pollution reduction efforts. ...

Criteria Designed To Meet Needs Of Bay’s Resources

The goal of the Chesapeake restoration effort is a clean Bay—one that meets its water quality standards.

For years, though, the Bay has had water quality standards that differed between the states and were neither attainable, nor protective of the creatures living in it.

In recent years, scientists and state and federal officials have worked to develop new water quality criteria for the Chesapeake that are designed to ensure that different types of fish, shellfish, underwater grasses and other organisms have the water conditions they need in the right places, and at the right time of the year. ...

Chesapeake Cleanup Update

This is the second of a series of annual reports that present the most current figures about the status of nutrient and sediment reduction efforts toward meeting the Bay Program’s water quality goals.

This pullout shows how various river basins, states—and various nutrient and sediment sources—are progressing toward meeting nutrient and sediment reduction goals that have been set for 2010.

Most of the information in this report comes from computer modeling conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Program. The 2003 model estimates, the most recent available, were released in February. ...

Ad campaign for Bay offers homeowners food for thought

The Bay Program has a message for people who see little connection between their daily lives and those of crabs and other creatures crawling around the Chesapeake: It’s time to join the club.

The Chesapeake Club is an outreach initiative aimed at getting people to reduce fertilizer use on their lawn to help benefit the Bay and the creatures that live in it—particularly blue crabs.

“We chose this campaign as a way to reach the general public that may not have realized a personal connection to the Bay,” said Bob Campbell, National Park Service liaison to the Bay Program, and chair of the Bay Program’s Communications and Education Subcommittee. “This is a way to expand our audience and bring them into the process.” ...

Bay cleanup could take a hit under proposed Bush budget

The Bush administration in February proposed a budget which, as far as the Bay is concerned, could be considered:

  • a status quo document in which the administration calls for funding Chesapeake-related programs at levels similar to those it supported in last year’s request, or
  • a spending plan that would sharply cut Bay funding because it does not include the programs, and dollar amounts, that Congress approved for the current year, and because it would cut several national programs that support Chesapeake restoration goals.

Because Congress has the final word on spending, the actual impact of the budget won’t be known until this fall, when the appropriations bills are finalized that will set spending levels for the 2006 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. ...

Council reaffirms student goal; officials ponder how to grade progress

Classroom educators and natural resource professionals are making strides toward providing every student in the Bay region with a “meaningful watershed experience,” but no one is certain whether this goal will be met by the close of 2005 as promised.

The Bay Program began promoting educational efforts in 1998. The Chesapeake 2000 agreement then went a step further with a commitment to provide every student in the Bay watershed with at least one substantive outdoor educational experience before graduation, beginning with the class of 2005. ...

Executive Council moves to set up watershed financing authority

Bay cleanup leaders took the first step in January toward establishing a watershedwide authority that could collect money—and redistribute it across state borders—to pay for Chesapeake restoration projects.

The Chesapeake Executive Council agreed to name representatives from each jurisdiction, along with financial and legal advisors, to a committee to determine how such an authority would operate. The council includes the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania; the mayor of the District of Columbia; the EPA administrator; and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislatures. ...

National water trail proposed to honor John Smith voyages

After the settlement of Jamestown in 1607, Capt. John Smith undertook a series of voyages that covered more than 3,000 miles as he explored the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

Sailing with a dozen men in a 30-foot open boat, Smith scouted shorelines that had been seen by few—if any—European eyes up to that time.

With the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown approaching, Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, introduced legislation to designate Smith’s route as a National Historic Trail, to be administered by the National Park Service. The system includes 13 other historic trails, including the Pony Express, Lewis and Clark, and Trail of Tears. ...

New discharge permits in watershed to require nutrient limits

After two decades of reliance on non-regulatory efforts to control nitrogen discharges, the EPA and the states will begin requiring that enforceable limits be part of the permits for more than 350 of the largest wastewater dischargers in the Bay watershed.

At the end of December, the EPA’s mid-Atlantic Region unveiled a new strategy that would require large wastewater treatment plants and industries from the headwaters of the Susquehanna in New York to the tip of Virginia’s Eastern Shore to cap nitrogen and phosphorus discharges specifically to benefit the Bay. ...

Questions spawn menhaden research in Bay

Menhaden in the Bay have proved to be a vexing issue for scientists and managers. Stock assessments of the species, which migrates along the Atlantic coast filtering algae from the water, have found the overall population to be healthy, with more than enough spawning-age fish to maintain the stock.

At the same time, the number of small, young fish has declined to near-historic lows in the Chesapeake for the past decade. Commercial fishing does not appear to be the direct cause of the decline of young fish because the industry generally does not target menhaden younger than 2 years old, which are the preferred food for most striped bass in the Bay. ...

Commission proposes cap for Bay’s menhaden catch

Regional fishery managers have taken the first step toward limiting the Bay’s commercial catch of menhaden, a small, oily fish that plays a big role in the Chesapeake’s ecology and supports hundreds of Virginia fishing jobs.

At the same time, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission called for stepped-up research to determine why menhaden abundance, a key food for the Bay’s booming striped bass population, has been declining for more than a decade.

Once largely unknown to most people, menhaden have emerged as one of the region’s most heated fishery management issues as recreational fishermen contend that the Virginia-based commercial fishery is taking too many out of the Bay, depriving striped bass and other predators of food. ...

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