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Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts take another step forward with Watershed Implementation Plans

Release Date: 04/03/2012
Contact Information: Tom Wenz 410-295-1360, wenz.tom@epa.gov

April 3, 2012


Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts take another step forward with Watershed Implementation Plans

The jurisdictions that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed have reaffirmed their commitment toward restoring the health of this national resource with the submission of final Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs). The Phase II WIPs are a landmark step forward in the collaboration between the Bay jurisdictions and their local governments and conservation districts to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This ongoing partnership is restoring thousands of streams and rivers that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office has received final Phase II WIP submissions from Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia. EPA has received New York’s draft Phase II WIP and provided them with evaluative comments. In the meantime, EPA is actively working with state officials to complete their submission as soon as possible and continue the progress New York made in its Phase I WIP commitments.

“The plans developed by the Bay jurisdictions and local communities are essential to restoring clean water to the thousands of streams and rivers that make up the Chesapeake Bay watershed and improving the quality of life and economy for the 17 million people who live in it,” said EPA Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin. “They recognize restoration goals can be reached when communities take the lead in addressing their own needs for healthy local waters.”

These plans were developed specifically by the states and the District through close coordination with their county, municipal and other partners. Each separate WIP identifies how that jurisdiction is working with its local partners to continue the process of putting measures in place by 2017 that will achieve at least 60 percent of the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions needed to restore the Bay. The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, including state and federal officials, have committed to having all of the needed pollution control measures in place to fully restore the Bay no later than 2025.

Much of this work already is being implemented by the jurisdictions consistent with their Phase I WIP commitments, building on 30 years of Bay restoration efforts. EPA will review the Phase II WIPs, provide feedback and assistance to each jurisdiction and determine the need (if any) for additional state and/or federal action to provide reasonable assurance of achieving the necessary pollution reductions.

EPA officials will spend the next several weeks conducting a detailed review of the final Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), working closely with the states to ensure the viability of their commitments. As the review process takes place, the Phase II WIP submissions will be available online at http://www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl/.



Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Background

In June 2000, the signatories of the Chesapeake Bay Program – the governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the mayor of the District of Columbia, as well as the Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission – signed the Chesapeake 2000 Watershed Partnership agreement. Later, the headwater states of Delaware, New York and West Virginia also signed a memorandum in support of the water quality section of Chesapeake 2000. The partners agreed that failure to clean their impaired waters voluntarily within a decade would lead to establishment of a Bay-wide TMDL.

Under the Strategy for Chesapeake Bay Watershed Restoration and Protection, as required by Executive Order 13508 issued by President Obama in May 2009, and in keeping with the commitments made in the Chesapeake 2000 agreement, EPA implemented the Chesapeake Bay TMDL for Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Sediment on December 29, 2010, in collaboration with the seven Bay jurisdictions.

This historic and comprehensive “pollution diet” contains rigorous accountability measures to initiate sweeping actions to restore clean water in the Chesapeake Bay and the region’s streams, creeks and rivers.

The TMDL identifies the necessary pollution reductions of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment across the Bay jurisdictions and sets pollution limits necessary to meet applicable water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers.

Specifically, the TMDL sets watershed limits of 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen, 12.5 million pounds of phosphorus and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment per year – reductions of 25 percent in nitrogen, 24 percent in phosphorus and 20 percent in sediment. These limits are further divided by jurisdiction and major river basin based on state-of-the-art modeling tools, extensive monitoring data, peer-reviewed science and close interaction with jurisdiction partners.

The TMDL is actually a combination of 92 smaller TMDLs for individual Chesapeake Bay tidal segments and includes pollution limits that are sufficient to meet state water quality standards for dissolved oxygen, water clarity, underwater Bay grasses and chlorophyll-a, an indicator of algae levels. Pollution controls employed to meet the Chesapeake Bay TMDL will also have significant benefits for water quality in tens of thousands of streams, creeks, lakes and rivers throughout the region.