by Alicia Pimental
October 01, 2009
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.
- $10 million per year for freshwater and estuarine monitoring programs to evaluate the health of the Bay and its network of streams, creeks and rivers.
- Updating and expanding the Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program into a “Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Grants Program” that provides $15 million annually to innovative, small- and large-scale pollution reduction projects.
- A permanent ban on introducing Asian oysters into the Bay.
- A ban on cleaning agents containing phosphorus.
- A study to determine the relationship between commercial menhaden fishing and the Bay’s health.
- $4 million in annual funding to eradicate the invasive rodent nutria from marshes in Delaware, Maryland and Virginia.
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.