July 9, 2012
2011 Milestone Analysis Shows Progress
(MASON NECK, VA)—An analysis of selected 2011 milestones established by the Bay states to accelerate the pace of reducing pollution to local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay found progress in each of the states. The analysis was conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) and Choose Clean Water (CCW). The goal of this analysis is to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.
"The state blueprints and two-year milestones lay out a clear roadmap to restoring the Bay, and the rivers and streams that feed it," said CBF President William C. Baker. "We have begun the journey, and need to take stock on a regular basis of both the progress made and the course corrections necessary to ensure we reach the destination as promised by 2025."
To assess how far we have come, and how far we need to go, CBF and CCW examined progress in implementing practices to reduce pollution from agricultural runoff, urban and suburban runoff, and wastewater treatment—based on their potential to provide substantial nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reductions and offer important lessons for implementation moving forward. The analyses also measured 2011 progress against either the 2017 or 2025 goals (depending on the best available information).
"Milestones are about getting results—clean rivers and streams throughout the region," said Choose Clean Water Director Hilary Harp Falk. "It's our job to keep the states honest, celebrate their successes and demand strategies to deal with shortfalls in pollution reductions."
The history of Chesapeake Bay restoration is full of long-term goals set—then missed. Most recently, the Chesapeake Executive Council (EC) promised to restore the Bay's health by 2010, but in 2008 the Bay Program acknowledged that they would fail by a wide margin. This failure triggered two actions. First, the EC charted a new course for clean water by committing to short, two-year goals, or "milestones," to reduce pollution to local rivers, streams and the Bay. Second, the development of science-based pollution targets and the associated clean water blueprints (formally called Watershed Implementation Plans) for the Chesapeake Bay were completed in December 2010.
All states exceeded in some categories and fell short others, which is not a surprise in this first milestone effort. In addition, greater transparency and accountability by EPA and the state agencies are required to ensure quality data and continued progress toward meeting milestones. Areas of concern include data sources, units of measurement, baseline estimates, and the tracking of agricultural conservation practices installed with no government assistance. These issues are expected to be addressed by efforts led by EPA to verify, track, and report on implementation.
Saving the Chesapeake Bay, and restoring local rivers and streams, will provide benefits today and for future generations. If progress is not made we will continue to have polluted water, human health hazards, and lost jobs—at a huge cost to society. Reducing pollution and restoring local water quality will create jobs and enhance local economies.
Of the nine practices evaluated, Virginia met six of their goals and missed the mark on three. Wastewater, septic system best management practices, and grass buffers all significantly exceeded the goals. Urban nutrient management, forest buffers, and cover crops fell short of the mark.
"Milestones represent a new level of government accountability and transparency for Chesapeake restoration, something we all agree citizens and taxpayers deserve, said Nathan Lott, Executive Director of the Virginia Conservation Network. "There is a lot to be learned from this first set of milestones. States need clearer guidance from EPA on what data to track and report. States then need to establish data tracking protocols and use them consistently. Over time, consistent and transparent reporting will demonstrate success and shortcomings. States and EPA can adjust their restoration plans accordingly to ensure results for citizens and taxpayers."
"Virginia has made considerable progress in meeting its first Bay milestones. Even in those areas where the state fell short—certain farm conservation practices and reducing lawn fertilizer—new or anticipated programs coming on line and ongoing policy "tweaks" can ensure greater progress," said CBF Virginia Executive Director Ann Jennings. "For example, Virginia's new "safe harbor" program for farmers can be tailored to increase cover crops, and actions of the past two General Assembly sessions should guarantee greater urban runoff reductions. Virginia has achieved six of nine milestone practices selected for analysis. This underscores the true significance of the Bay milestones: allowing for public review and critique of short-term progress and necessary program adjustments well in advance of the 2017 and 2025 deadlines to restore the Bay and its rivers and streams."
Of the eight practices evaluated, Maryland exceeded its goals in five, came extremely close in one, and fell short in two practices. Wastewater nitrogen and phosphorus goals, forest buffers, and cover crops all exceeded the mark. Maryland came very close in septic system denitrification, and fell short on stream fencing and stormwater retrofits.
Maryland made significant mid-course changes in their milestones. While CBF and CCW agree that changes are acceptable, especially in light of new funding, technologies, and local input, there was little transparency during the process. Maryland has agreed to post implementation by county in FY 13, and also agreed to provide greater transparency going forward.
"We are proud of the progress Maryland has made and its commitment to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. But for us to reach our goals, there must be a higher standard of accountability and transparency as we enter the implementation phase," said 1000 Friends of Maryland Deputy Director Jennifer Bevan-Dangel. "The State must also continue to work closely with local governments to ensure they are active partners in this process."
"Governor O'Malley and the General Assembly have demonstrated their commitment to restoring the Bay. Not only did Maryland make significant progress in these two-year milestones, the groundwork has been laid for future success as well," said CBF Maryland Executive Director Alison Prost. "Policies and funding passed during this year's legislative session are now in place to begin to tackle the growing problem of urban and suburban stormwater runoff, as well as continuing to reduce pollution from agriculture and wastewater treatment."
Of the 10 practices evaluated, Pennsylvania met or exceeded its goals in four, and fell short of the mark in six. Goals were met or exceeded in wastewater nitrogen and phosphorus, septic connections, and forest buffers. Areas where the goals were missed include stormwater management, agricultural nutrient management and conservation plans, and cover crops.
"Our state has made progress in meeting its milestone commitments, but we have also fallen short of some of our goals. Our successes are great but we cannot ignore the reality that we have much more to do. Our elected officials, decision makers, and citizens must commit to taking the steps necessary to meet all of our clean water goals. We must set clear, verifiable goals and implement the necessary practices and policies to meet the goal every Pennsylvanian supports—cleaner water here at home. We look forward to working together to make clean water a reality," said Brian Glass, General Counsel, Citizens for Pennsylvania's Future (PennFuture).
"Pennsylvania has strong existing state laws and regulations governing agriculture, but while some farms are in compliance, many are not. Far too many have never even been made aware of the requirements. Since the milestone goals were set, the Commonwealth has implemented plans to reach out to farmers and help bring them into compliance, which will go a long way toward addressing these agricultural goals," said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Matt Ehrhart. "The challenge with stormwater is that the responsibility for implementation is in the hands of thousands of towns and municipalities, and many are struggling to understand and implement the new stormwater regulations."