The iconic Chesapeake Bay Bridge taken on March 20, 2017. (Image by Will Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

The Chesapeake Bay Program’s Principals’ Staff Committee (PSC) gathered in-person this week to make a series of decisions that will set the path forward for the next phase of Bay cleanup.

Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia are developing the next phase (Phase III) of their Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) to determine what actions they will take with local partners and stakeholders to meet their pollution reduction goals by 2025, as outlined under the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (Bay TMDL). The Phase III WIPs will also be informed by the information and data gathered as part of the Bay TMDL’s midpoint assessment.

Bay Program leaders made the following decisions this week, but will meet again in February to resolve a few outstanding issues in order to continue to move forward with the next chapter in Bay restoration.

Release the draft Phase III WIP planning targets.

Each jurisdiction is responsible for reducing a certain number of nutrient pollutants by 2025. Using the new suite of modeling tools, the CBP partnership has determined a draft number, or planning target, for each jurisdiction to meet. The PSC approved the process for reviewing the draft planning targets, which offers jurisdictions the opportunity to work with their local partners to make any adjustments and ensure the planning targets can also be used to help address local water quality needs. The PSC recognizes that the draft planning targets are subject to be adjusted based on the review period.

Adopt the new suite of modeling tools.

The PSC has approved the use of a brand new suite of modeling tools for jurisdictions and local partners to use in finalizing their draft planning targets and implementing their Phase III WIPs and two-year milestones through 2025. Developed by the CBP partnership, this new suite of tools has a more simplified structure than the previous version and includes improved nutrient data, cutting edge high-resolution land cover data and new and improved information about the efficiencies of pollution reducing best management practices.

Base WIP development on 2025 zoning projections.

As the Chesapeake Bay region continues to grow its population, not only in humans, but also with animals, crops and housing density, it is important for jurisdictions and local partners to have future predictions to plan how they will reduce their future pollution loads due to this growth. The use of 2025 growth projections to track and account for growth in the Phase III WIPs has been approved by the PSC. The 2025 growth projections will be updated in future two-year milestones with the latest information and data from jurisdictions and local partners.

Develop an implementation plan to address infill caused by the Conowingo Dam.

Various studies have determined that the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River in Maryland has reached its capacity for trapping and storing sediment and nutrients within its reservoir. The PSC has agreed that working to reduce this increased pollution is an important issue for the CBP partnership to address, and to develop a separate planning target just for the Conowingo Dam with its own implementation plan to reduce pollution moving forward.

Adopt an approach to factor climate change into the Phase III WIPs.

The impacts of climate change, including sea level rise, storm intensity and changes in water flow and temperature, are important considerations to address in planning and implementation efforts. The PSC provisionally supports a multi-pronged approach for addressing climate change. This approach asks jurisdictions to consider the following when developing their Phase III WIPs:

  • a narrative summary that details their efforts to address climate change, including local priorities
  • document current scientific understanding and identify research gaps and needs, and
  • include jurisdiction-specific estimates of additional nutrient loads and begin accounting for those additional loads in the 2022 – 2023 milestones.

The PSC is made up of state secretaries of the environment, natural resources, agriculture and planning, along with the director for the District of Columbia’s Department of Energy and the Environment, the executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, chairs of the CBP citizens’, local government and scientific advisory committees and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S Department of the Navy, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to work on behalf of the Chesapeake Executive Council to set policy and implementation actions to help restore and sustain the Chesapeake Bay watershed.



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