Tuesday, July 10, 2012

CBF: Chesapeake Bay Milestones Analysis Shows Progress

An analysis of selected 2011 milestones established by the Chesapeake Bay states to accelerate the
pace of reducing pollution to local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay found progress in each of the states.
The analysis was conducted by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Choose Clean Water. The goal of this analysis is to ensure that commitments were met, and if not, that actions are taken to compensate for any shortfall.
“The state blueprints and two-year milestones lay out a clear roadmap to restoring the Bay, and the rivers and streams that feed it,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “We have begun the journey, and need to take stock on a regular basis of both the progress made and the course corrections necessary to ensure we reach the destination as promised by 2025.”
To assess how far we have come, and how far we need to go, CBF and CCW examined progress in implementing practices to reduce pollution from agricultural runoff, urban and suburban runoff, and wastewater treatment—based on their potential to provide substantial nitrogen and phosphorus pollution reductions and offer important lessons for implementation moving forward.
The analyses also measured 2011 progress against either the 2017 or 2025 goals (depending on the best available information).
“Milestones are about getting results – clean rivers and streams throughout the region,” said Choose Clean Water Director Hilary Harp Falk.  “It’s our job to keep the states honest, celebrate their successes and demand strategies to deal with shortfalls in pollution reductions.”
The history of Chesapeake Bay restoration is full of long-term goals set - then missed.  Most recently, the Chesapeake Executive Council promised to restore the Bay’s health by 2010, but in 2008 the Bay Program acknowledged that they would fail by a wide margin.  
This failure triggered two actions. First, the EC charted a new course for clean water by committing to short, two-year goals, or “milestones,” to reduce pollution to local rivers, streams and the Bay. Second, the development of science-based pollution targets and the associated clean water blueprints (formally called Watershed Implementation Plans) for the Chesapeake Bay were completed in December 2010.  
All states exceeded in some categories and fell short in others, which is not a surprise in this first milestone effort.
In addition, greater transparency and accountability by EPA and the state agencies are required to ensure quality data and continued progress toward meeting milestones. Areas of concern include data sources, units of measurement, baseline estimates, and the tracking of agricultural conservation practices installed with no government assistance.  These issues are expected to be addressed by efforts led by EPA to verify, track, and report on implementation.
Saving the Chesapeake Bay, and restoring local rivers and streams, will provide benefits today and for future generations.  If progress is not made we will continue to have polluted water, human health hazards, and lost jobs—at a huge cost to society. Reducing pollution and restoring local water quality will create jobs and enhance local economies Of the 10 practices evaluated, Pennsylvania met or exceeded its goals in four, and fell short of the mark in six.
Goals were met or exceeded in wastewater nitrogen and phosphorus, septic connections, and forest buffers. Areas where the goals were missed include stormwater management, agricultural nutrient management and conservation plans, and cover crops.
“Our state has made progress in meeting its milestone commitments, but we have also fallen short of some of our goals. Our successes are great but we cannot ignore the reality that we have much more to do. Our elected officials, decision makers, and citizens must commit to taking the steps necessary to meet all of our clean water goals. We must set clear, verifiable goals and implement the necessary practices and policies to meet the goal every Pennsylvanian supports -- cleaner water here at home. We look forward to working together to make clean water a reality,” said Brian Glass, General Counsel, Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future.
“Pennsylvania has strong existing state laws and regulations governing agriculture, but while some farms are in compliance, many are not. Far too many have never even been made aware of the requirements. Since the milestone goals were set, the Commonwealth has implemented plans to reach out to farmers and help bring them into compliance, which will go a long way toward addressing these agricultural goals,” said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Matt Ehrhart. “The challenge with stormwater is that the responsibility for implementation is in the hands of thousands of towns and municipalities, and many are struggling to understand and implement the new stormwater regulations.”
A copy of the CBF analysis is available online.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s Chesapeake Bay initiatives, or to view the milestones and draft county planning targets, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Program webpage or EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program webpage.

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