What is the Basinwide BMP Verification Framework?

The Chesapeake Bay Basinwide BMP Verification Framework addresses twelve specific elements in the report and the supporting appendices. A complete listing of the twelve framework elements and links to their documentation within the report are provided on this page.

BMP Verification Principles

The Chesapeake Bay Program partnership defined and adopted five principles to guide partners’ efforts as they build on existing local, state and federal practice tracking and reporting systems and make enhancements to their BMP verification programs.

BMP Verification Review Panel

Through a process described in Appendix C of the report, an independent BMP Verification Review Panel of 13 regionally and nationally recognized experts was established by the Bay Program partnership to examine the degree to which jurisdictions’ practice tracking, verification and reporting programs meet the parameters delineated in the Bay Program partnership’s adopted verification principles and verification guidance.

Sector verification guidance

Six technical workgroups under the Bay Program’s Water Quality Goal Implementation Team and the Vital Habitats Goal Implementation Team were tasked with developing verification guidance for use by the seven watershed jurisdictions in further developing and enhancing their existing BMP tracking, verification and reporting programs. The six sets of workgroup-based verification guidance are: agriculture, forestry, urban stormwater, wastewater, wetlands and streams.

Practice life spans

Bay Program partners have agreed to establish practice life spans for all of the approved BMPs and apply these life spans within the workgroups’ verification guidance and the jurisdictions’ verification programs and underlying protocols. Bay Program partners agreed to the crediting of a practice after its recorded lifespan as long as the proper level of re-verification occurs, confirming the practice is still present and functioning. The framework document outlines in greater detail the specific steps to be taken in factoring practice lifespans into the workgroups’ BMP verification guidance, the BMP verification framework and the jurisdictions’ BMP verification programs.

Full access to federal cost-shared practice data

The objective of this framework element is to ensure that all six states within the Chesapeake Bay watershed have full access to all federally cost-shared conservation practice data in order to: give them a greater capacity for analysis and understanding of agricultural conservation practice implementation across the landscape; to support the adaptive management and targeting of conservation programs; fully credit producers for their implemented conservation practices; to eliminate any double counting; and promote success in attaining water-quality goals. To accomplish this goal, the partnership recommends that states establish a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) 1619 Conservation Cooperator agreement between the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and one of more of their state conservation agencies.

Enhanced reporting of federally cost shared practices

The Bay Program’s Agriculture Workgroup has identified opportunities to enhance the recordkeeping associated with USDA conservation practices, in order to capture specific information that can be used to more efficiently integrate the data with jurisdictional datasets and to more accurately represent the practices in the Bay Program partners’ Scenario Builder tool and its various Bay watershed and estuarine water quality models. A number of USDA conservation practices were identified described as having substantial limitation in the amount of data available for translating between USDA conservation practice codes and Bay Program-approved practice definitions.

Accounting for non-cost share practices

For practices installed outside of a regulatory program and without the assistance of a federal or state cost-shared program, there is no permit or contractual vehicle to ensure adherence to specific practice standards, specific planning requirements, and project performance. There is no established mechanism for requiring reporting or monitoring through time or for ensuring public access to the practice data. These are the challenges facing the Bay Program partners and their shared desire to ensure the accurate and transparent accounting for and crediting of all nutrient and sediment pollutant load reducing practices which are in place and operating correctly. The Chesapeake Bay Program Resource Improvement Practice Definitions and Verification Visual Indicators Report provides Bay Program partners with the guidance required for the collection and verification of non-cost-shared agricultural conservation practices that meet Bay Program partners’ BMP definitions and establish definitions and verifications methods for Resource Improvement Practices.

Preventing double counting

There are many situations where a jurisdiction tracks an implemented conservation practice and the USDA also tracks the identical practice. Typically, both the state and the USDA are tracking the same practice, because they both provided financial assistance to the farmer for the practice implementation. In these cases, there must be a clear protocol in place to choose which data to report in order to avoid double counting. In 2012, the six watershed states employed various techniques to address this issue. The solutions are documented in the Hively et al. 2013 report, and the state-specific methods, which apply to cost-shared and non-cost shared practice data, are included in the BMP Verification Framework as Appendix F.

Clean-up of historic BMP databases

The Bay Program’s Watershed Technical Workgroup is responsible for organizing the efforts across all partners to create more accurate BMP records from 1985 through the present. The clean-up of the jurisdictions’ historical BMP databases is being done in response to: the need for re-calibration of the Bay Program’s Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model as part of the 2017 Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Mid-point Assessment; and to better support the basin-wide and Bay-wide efforts underway to explain observed long-term water quality trends in the hundreds of monitoring stations across the watershed and tidal waters. Guidance from the BMP Verification Committee was provided at their March 13, 2013 meeting.

Documentation of jurisdictional BMP verification programs

In the process of developing new and revising existing BMP verification protocols and programs, jurisdictions are strongly encouraged to consult the four products developed by the Bay Program’s independent BMP Verification Review Panel:

Each of these matrices and checklists are presented and described in Section 3 for the Basinwide BMP Verification Framework report.

Evaluation and Oversight

Bay Program partners have agreed to a suite of ongoing evaluation and oversight procedures and processes to ensure the five BMP verification principles adopted by partners are adhered to and effectively carried out. These procedures and processes also reflect the Bay Program partners’ commitment to adapt to new scientific findings and experiences from verification efforts underway.

Communications and Outreach

The Bay Program’s Communications Workgroup has developed a BMP verification communications and outreach strategy to enable partners to have consistent, clear internal messages as they gradually build toward public implementation of the BMP verification framework. As described within the communications strategy, having solid internal understanding and messaging will enable Bay Program partners to more smoothly and consistently communicate about BMP verification with various external audiences and “implementers” across the watershed as the BMP verification process moves forward.