The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Inspector General (IG) released on Sept. 10 an evaluation report stating that development growth in the Bay watershed is outpacing Bay restoration efforts. The report was written in response to Congressional requests to evaluate how well the EPA is assisting its Chesapeake Bay partners in restoring the estuary.
The Bay watershed's population is over 16.5 million and growing by more than 170,000 residents annually. The rapid rate of population growth and related residential and commercial development means that this is the only pollution sector in the Bay watershed that is still growing.
In the Bay Program's 2006 Bay Health and Restoration Assessment, it was estimated that increases in pollution due to development have surpassed the gains achieved to date from improved landscape design and stormwater management practices. This estimation from Bay Program scientists has now been corroborated by the IG report.
To combat the increase in pollution from development in the Bay watershed, Bay Program partners are focusing restoration efforts on reducing nutrient and sediment runoff from new development.
Pennsylvania and Virginia have been revising their stormwater regulations.
Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley recently signed a new stormwater law, and the Maryland Department of the Environment is now working on regulatory actions it will need to put in place to comply with the new Maryland law.
The IG report listed two main recommendations for reducing nutrient and sediment loads from developing lands.
The Chesapeake Bay Program Office director should prepare a strategy to:
- Demonstrate leadership to reverse the trend of increasing pollution from developing lands.
- Work with Bay Program partners to set realistic, community-level goals for reducing pollution from developed and developing lands.
- The EPA's Water Protection Division director, with delegated states, should establish a documented permitting approach to achieve greater nutrient and sediment reductions in Bay watershed Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permits.
Download the full IG evaluation report from the EPA website.