Maryland Senator Benjamin Cardin has introduced new legislation that would greatly expand federal resources, including funding, authority and enforcement tools, and set a legally binding deadline of 2025 for states to put all necessary measures into place to achieve a healthy, restored Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 would replace section 117 of the federal Clean Water Act, which governs the EPA Chesapeake Bay Program. Under the act, the Bay Program and retains its basic structure as a federal/state partnership.
“This is the most significant advancement on the Chesapeake Bay in the last 20 years,” Senator Cardin said at a press event at Sandy Point state Park in Annapolis to announce the legislation. “This is a robust plan that will put us on a realistic but aggressive path to restoring the Bay to a healthy state that can sustain native fish, wildlife, farmland, and our regional economy.”
The legislation proposes to set for the first time a firm deadline for all Bay restoration efforts to be put into place. By 2025, each state in the Bay watershed would have to set specific targets and implement schedules to reduce pollution from agricultural runoff, stormwater runoff, septic systems and wastewater treatment facilities to the Bay’s tidal waters. To ensure it would be met, the 2025 deadline would become a legally binding part of the Clean Water Act.
“We know we have made progress over the past 25 years, but we equally know that such progress is not enough,” Virginia Natural Resources Secretary Preston Bryant said at the press event, noting that the states will continue to set aggressive two-year milestones to increase transparency and accelerate Bay cleanup.
The Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009 would require that a federal plan to achieve water quality standards in the Bay and its tidal rivers, called a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), be completed by December 2010. The TMDL, which is currently in production, cannot include any net increase in pollution from new and increased paved areas, septic systems, large animal feeding operations and transportation systems.
To help the states set and meet new cleanup measures, Senator Cardin’s legislation proposes to significantly expand federal grants for Bay restoration. Most notably, the bill includes $1.5 billion for grants that help municipalities control polluted stormwater runoff from the Bay watershed’s towns, cities and suburbs – the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Bay.
States would also receive increased federal funding for Bay restoration projects through $80 million in implementation grants. For the first time, Delaware, New York and West Virginia would be guaranteed at least 10 percent of the implementation grant funds. Another 20 percent would be used to help farmers and foresters access Farm Bill funding to implement on-the-ground conservation practices.
“If you have the tools and the abilities to get the job done, you’ll get it done,” Senator Cardin said.
In addition, the legislation would put the force of law behind President Obama’s recent Executive Order on the Chesapeake Bay. Every federal agency working toward a restored Chesapeake Bay would be required to submit to the EPA annual action plans reflecting their efforts.
Other proposed provisions of the legislation include:
Requiring the EPA to establish a nutrient trading program by mid-2012.
Legislators at the press unveiling were confident that the bill would bring real, enforceable progress to the Chesapeake Bay cleanup effort, which has made progress in some areas but has ultimately failed to restore the Bay to a healthy state.
“She [the Chesapeake Bay] has been in the intensive care unit for more than 20 years,” Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley said. “One day, she’ll be able to walk out of that ICU … and into the lives of our children and grandchildren.”
Visit Senator Cardin’s website for more information about the Chesapeake Clean Water and Ecosystem Restoration Act of 2009, including the full text of the bill and a letter of support from three members of the Chesapeake Executive Council.
Watch a video of Senator Cardin and Governor O'Malley speaking about the legislation at its press unveiling in Annapolis, Md., on October 19.
The state of Maryland planted nearly 750 million baby oysters – called oyster spat – in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers in 2009, surpassing last year’s total of 600 million spat and marking a new record for the state’s oyster restoration program.
The oyster spat were grown at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science (UMCES) Horn Point Laboratory, located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore near Cambridge. Using the spat, Maryland was able to revitalize 350 acres of oyster reefs on 26 sites across the Bay and its rivers.
Part of the reason for the large increase in spat production was an expanded partnership between UMCES, the Oyster Recovery Partnership and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, in which waterfront property owners raise hatchery-reared oyster spat in cages. Residents along 12 Maryland rivers are currently growing oyster spat in more than 5,000 cages; next year the spat will be transferred to oyster sanctuaries throughout the Bay.
“At a time when we are escalating all of our efforts to restore the Bay, this record planting – along with record involvement by citizen stewards in oyster restoration – gives us tremendous confidence for increasing the Bay’s oyster population,” said Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in a statement.
The oyster restoration process involves several steps:
Watch these two videos for a further explanation on how oyster spat are produced at the Horn Point Laboratory:
Maryland is poised to continue surpassing its oyster spat production levels each year, according to UMCES president Dr. Donald Boesch. A new oyster setting facility at the Horn Point Laboratory will potentially allow UMCES to produce up to two billion oyster spat per year.
Want to do your part to help the Bay’s oysters? If you live on the water in Maryland, check out the Marylanders Grow Oysters program, which is now open to residents on 12 of the state’s rivers, including the Annemessex, Magothy and St. Mary’s.
Virginia has approved new stormwater rules that will help reduce polluted runoff – the fastest-growing source of pollution to the Chesapeake Bay – to the streams, creeks and rivers that feed the Bay.
The new rules will reduce by 38 percent the amount of phosphorus that flows from new development and redevelopment projects in the Chesapeake Bay watershed portion of Virginia – about 60 percent of the state. Developers would have to install runoff-reducing practices, such as retention ponds and rain gardens that allow more water to soak into the ground. These practices reduce the amount of rain water that runs off roads and parking lots, picking up pollutants on its way into storm drains and local waterways.
Because of extensive changes to the regulations originally proposed, an additional public comment period will take place from Oct. 26 to Nov. 25. The Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board plans to put the rules into place on or around Dec. 9.
“I am confident that, once finally adopted and implemented, these regulations will provide real benefits to the quality of our waters across the state and bring us closer to the elusive goal of a restored Chesapeake Bay,” said Preston Bryant, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources.
Get more information about the approved changes to Virginia’s stormwater regulations at the Virginia Association of Counties’ website.