Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint
Pennsylvania's 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, Pennsylvania 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.
Pennsylvania's plan includes actions to be taken by farmers, sewage treatment plants, urban cities, suburban communities, rural towns, and citizens across Pennsylvania's Bay watershed.
How Much Progress Has Been Made?
Since 1985, Pennsylvania and the Bay states have achieved a little less than half the pollution reductions necessary to meet Bay restoration goals. These reductions appear to be working, as a recent 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.
Pennsylvania'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.
On May 30, 2013, EPA provided its interim assessments on the seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions' progress toward meeting their 2012-2013 Milestones and Watershed Implementation Plan goals.
On July 8, 2013,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.
The evaluation of Pennsylvania's 2012-13 Milestone progress shows Pennsylvania is on track to achieve three of the eight practices selected for evaluation. However, the evaluation raised concerns regarding the reported level of implementation. Pennsylvania exceeded its 2011 Milestone goal for forested buffers; however, they are not on track to meet their 2013 goal and will have a significant challenge to meet their 2025 goal of 154,160 acres.
Source: Chesapeake Bay TMDL website
View the complete report (PDF 565 KB)
Novel approaches, such as linking forested buffer implementation to cost-share for other conservation programs, will be needed to reach this goal. Conservation and manure management plans are the cornerstone of the agricultural strategy that Pennsylvania included in its Watershed Implementation Plan. And, although Pennsylvania adopted a stronger compliance policy in 2012 and added a few additional staff, more resources are needed to ensure that the approximately 40,000 farms across the watershed have, and are implementing, these plans.
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, finger-pointing, anti-Bay legislation and lawsuits, powerful interest groups, and a bad economy all threaten to derail the collaborative local/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 Chesapeake Bay will reach a tipping point when improvements outpace pollution and the Bay rebounds exponentially.
Pennsylvania has been a partner in the effort to restore the bay since the early 1980s. During that time, notable progress has been made in improving many local streams and reducing pollution that flows from the Commonwealth's rivers and streams into the Bay. Although precise estimates vary, the lion's share of pollution reductions have come from improved agricultural practices and, more recently, the updating of sewage treatment plant technologies.
Still, about 18,000 miles of streams and rivers in Pennsylvania and most of the Chesapeake Bay remain polluted from the legacy of coal mining, dirty water running off streets, parking lots, lawns, and farms, from poorly treated wastewater, air pollution, and other sources. Much work remains to be done.
Developing Pennsylvania's Clean Water Blueprint
In early 2011, EPA approved Pennsylvania's "Phase I" WIP dated January 11, 2011. Upon review, however, EPA cited several deficiencies in Pennsylvania's Phase I WIP that resulted in EPA proposing "backstops" to assure pollutant reductions in the plan would be achieved.
The next step in the process was the development of a Phase II WIP. In general, this plan is supposed to bring the effort to a more localized level, such as a county. Pennsylvania's Final Phase II WIP was provided to EPA March 30, 2012.
In 2017, Pennsylvania 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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