Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint
Delaware's Watershed Implementation Plan
What is a Watershed Implementation Plan?
In 2010, after decades of voluntary efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay failed to remove it from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) list of "impaired" waters, EPA established an enforceable pollution limit known as a "Total Maximum Daily Load" (TMDL) for the Bay and its tidal rivers. The TMDL, a provision of the Clean Water Act, is a scientific estimate of the maximum amount of pollution the Bay can tolerate and still meet water quality standards. Pollution reduction by the six Bay states and the District of Columbia is essential to cleaning up the Bay.
Subsequently, Delaware and the other six jurisdictions agreed to create state-specific plans to implement 60 percent of their Bay cleanup practices by 2017 and 100 percent by 2025. These plans are called Watershed Implementation Plans or WIPs and will not only help restore the Bay, but will also significantly improve the health of local waterways. Collectively, the TMDL and the WIPs establish the Cleanwater Blueprint for the Chesapeake.
How Much Progress Has Been Made?
Since 1985, Delaware and the Bay states have achieved slightly more than half of the nitrogen pollution reductions and two-thirds of the phosphorus and sediment reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a 2013 study of actual conditions in the Bay by the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University showed that the size of the Bay's oxygen-starved "dead zone" has shrunk specifically because of efforts from the Bay states, including Pennsylvania.
But the work is far from done.
Delaware's Two-Year Milestone Progress
To track progress toward achieving the 2017 and 2025 deadlines for implementing the Cleanwater Blueprint the Bay states and the District of Columbia agreed to establish interim, two-year cleanup goals called Milestones, and to publicly report progress toward achieving them beginning January 2011. The two-year Milestones and progress reports are a critical tool to hold the states and EPA publicly accountable.
In January 2014, the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' submitted their progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed Implementation Plan goals to EPA.
On June 11, 2014, CBF and Choose Clean Water (CCW) released an analysis of selected Milestones. The goal of this analysis was to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.
An evaluation of Delaware's two-year milestone progress shows Delaware achieved its 2013 goals for four of the seven practices evaluated.
Assessment of Delaware's Progress on Selected Pollution-Reduction Practices for 2013
|Animal Waste Management
||This practice is one of the most effective at reducing pollution and Delaware has ramped up implementation in the last couple of years. However, it missed its 2013 milestone goal. Acheiving Delaware's
long-term pollution reduction goals will require increased effort and better data verification to ensure all implementation counts towards meeting goals.
||Like many states, Delaware needs additional funding resources and outreach efforts to incentivize the installation of grass buffers. If passed, the Governor's Clean Water for Delaware's Future Initiative will provide additional financial resources.
||Delaware partnered with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited to ensure that Nanticoke Restoration Plan projects are designed to improve water quality and wildlife habitat. They also want to maximize resources with partners active in the watershed. Looking forward, Delaware will need to accelerate wetland protection to meet 2017 and 2025 goals.
||Delaware exceeded its 2013 milestone goal, which was set below 2011 implementation, albeit above 2010 implementation. Improvements in tracking implementation by state, federal, and local partners help explain this apparent disconnect. Delaware is on track to meet its long term goals if it maintains progress in cover crops.
||Delaware has made great progress implementing this practice, far exceeding its 2013 milestone goal. Delaware's long-term goals for this practice are modest, but this success indicates they should consider setting more aggressive goals.
|Urban tree planting
||Funds provided by the U.S. Forest Service, Delaware and the Non-Point Source (319) Program were used to create the "Trees for the Bay" Program that offers residents a $100 tree coupon with a rain barrel purchase. Delaware's 2013 milestone goal was equal to 2011 implementation, but this successful federal-state partnership demonstrates that it could set more aggressive targets
|Septic System Connection
||Progress partially reflects efforts to include more accurate, previously implemented, septic connection data. New regulations and the Governor's Clean Water for Delaware's Future Initiative, if passed, will result
in additional septic hookups. These new hookups are critical to meeting aggressive long-term goals.
Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website
View the complete report
These successes were due to strategic funding, partnerships with non-government organizations, and outreach activities. Implementing newly accepted statewide septic and polluted-runoff regulations and collecting critical data related to agricultural practices will lead to future progress. But there is room for improvement. In 2014, Governor Markell announced his Clean Water for Delaware's Future Initiative which, if approved, will provide the necessary funding needed to implement additional conservation and infrastructure practices and upgrades. It is now up to the legislature to pass his proposal.
Concerted efforts to create a centralized database will help Delaware increase their data-tracking capabilities and verification processes to meet or exceed 2017 goals.
Additionally, implementation of new statewide on-site wastewater and stormwater regulations will address the state's current inability to meet 2013 goals.
You can track progress for all Bay jurisdictions, including Pennsylvania, on EPA's Chesapeake Stat website site. On EPA's Chesapeake Bay TMDL website you can read about progress already being realized.
What Obstacles Does the Cleanup Face?
Apathy, anti-Bay legislation, lawsuits, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the state-federal Bay cleanup. Yet most experts consider this the Chesapeake Bay's best, and perhaps last, chance for real restoration. The problems have been identified; we have the know-how and tools to fix them; and the benefits of a restored Chesapeake Bay manifestly outweigh cleanup costs. If we work together to make the pollution limits work, many scientists believe the Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.
Developing Delaware's Clean Water Blueprint
Delaware delivered its second set of two-year milestones for 2014-2015 to the EPA.
Delaware delivered its Final Phase II WIP on March 30, 2012. EPA commented (PDF) (6 pgs, 304KB) on the blueprint May 31, 2012.
EPA evaluated the Bay jurisdictions' Draft Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) and 2012-2013 two-year milestones and provided feedback on February 15, 2012. The Phase II WIPs and the two-year milestones are important elements in helping to meet the Chesapeake Bay Program Executive Council's goal of having all practices in place by 2025 to meet water quality standards in the Chesapeake Bay. View the evaluation for Delaware (PDF) (4pg, 32K).
For their Phase II WIPs, EPA asked jurisdictions to make key stakeholders—local governments, conservations districts, farmers, builders and others—aware of their roles in cleaning up the region's waterways, and to strengthen pollution-reduction strategies for any sectors subject to federal enhanced oversight or backstop actions based on the Phase I WIPs and the Bay TMDL issued in 2010. Visit Delaware's website to learn more about their activities to finalize their Phase II WIP.
Final Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans to EPA by the six watershed states and the District of Columbia began November 29, 2010. The WIPs were designed to provide a roadmap for how and when a jurisdiction intends to meet its pollutant allocations under the Bay TMDL. View the Final Phase I WIP for Delaware.
The Phase I WIPs were reviewed by a team of EPA sector specialists based on detailed expectations provided by EPA in November 2009 (PDF) and supplemented in April 2010 (PDF) and extensive interaction with the jurisdictions since the submittal of draft WIPs in early September 2010. The WIPs needed to meet the lower pollution limits for that jurisdiction and provide reasonable assurance that the actions identified would achieve the reductions, particularly for non-permitted sources like runoff from agricultural lands and stormwater from urban and suburban lands. The final WIPs represented significant improvements over the draft WIPs, enabling EPA to reduce and remove most federal "backstops" that had been included in the draft TMDL. View the Phase I evaluation for Delaware (PDF).
In 2017, Delaware and the other Bay states are to submit a Phase III WIP which will focus on ensuring that all practices are in place by 2025 as need to fully restore the Bay and its tidal waters.
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