Friday, July 27, 2018

EPA Releases Assessment Of Chesapeake Bay Restoration, Lack Of PA Progress Leaves A Hole

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Friday released a midpoint assessment of efforts by Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and federal partners to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution to the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed.
It will come as no surprise that Pennsylvania’s evaluation shows we are significantly behind in meeting our target reductions.
Collectively, the Bay Watershed jurisdictions have made considerable progress in reducing pollution to the Bay and the local waters that lead to the Bay. That progress has been demonstrated in measurable ways, including record acreage of underwater grasses and the highest estimates of water quality standards attained in more than 30 years.
According to data submitted by the Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions, overall watershed-wide restoration efforts exceeded the 60 percent goals for reducing phosphorus and sediment as measured under the current suite of modeling tools, but additional work is needed to meet the 2017 goal for reducing nitrogen.
“Working together with our partners at the state and local levels has led to considerable progress toward restoring water quality in the Chesapeake Bay,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio. “As we move into the next phase, we’re confident we will optimize strategies that will ultimately achieve the TMDL goals.”
Click Here for a fact sheet on the midpoint assessment.  Click Here to read the full evaluation for Pennsylvania.  Click Here to read the full assessment.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation found important progress, but troubling trends as well.  Specifically, Pennsylvania’s poor progress in reducing pollution threatens local rivers and streams as well as the recovery of downstream waters of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and Virginia.
“This is a critical moment for Bay restoration. Halfway to the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint’s 2025 goal, it’s time to get serious about finishing the job,” said CBF President William C. Baker.  “Pennsylvania is far behind. The Commonwealth must fund proven clean water initiatives specifically associated with helping farmers. If the state legislature does not fund efforts to reduce pollution in its next session, EPA must hold Pennsylvania accountable.”
All states in the Bay watershed, except New York, have met goals for reducing pollution from sewage treatment plants. Maryland and Virginia are close to reaching overall goals, but are significantly behind in reducing pollution from urban/suburban runoff.
Pennsylvania is significantly off track meeting its goals for agriculture and urban/suburban runoff.
Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, which are together responsible for achieving roughly 95 percent of the remaining pollution, have fallen short in reducing nitrogen pollution from agriculture.
“Progress reducing pollution from agriculture must be accelerated. Many farmers are taking steps to reduce pollution, but they lack the resources and funding to do more. Legislation proposed by Senators Casey and Van Hollen as part of the federal Farm Bill could help make that happen,” said Beth McGee, CBF Director of Science and Agricultural Policy. “Progress in reducing pollution from urban and suburban runoff not only continues to lag, but it is the only major source of pollution that is increasing.”
Nature is signaling that the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working: Dead zones are shrinking; Underwater grasses are at record levels; Crabs and oysters are making a comeback.
However, Pennsylvania’s lack of progress threatens success.
Recognizing this, in early 2016 the Commonwealth announced a reboot of its strategy to clean up its waterways. While this has made some important headway, many challenges remain. The biggest barrier continues to be inadequate investment from Pennsylvania.
“In the next legislative session, Pennsylvania must enact a dedicated cost-share program for farmers that supports conservation practices like streamside forested buffers. This would directly help family farms by keeping vital soils and nutrients on the land instead of in the water,” said CBF Pennsylvania Executive Director Harry Campbell. “The result would be cleaner streams and healthier, more productive soils. It’s a win-win. But unless Pennsylvania’s legislature increases investment in reducing pollution, EPA will have no choice but to act.”
“The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is working because it has teeth,” Mr. Baker said. “If EPA holds Pennsylvania accountable, we may see the greatest environmental success story of our time: Saving the Chesapeake Bay and its local rivers and streams.”
For more on Chesapeake Bay-related issues in Pennsylvania, visit the Chesapeake Bay Foundation-PA webpage.  Click Here to sign up for Pennsylvania updates (bottom of left column).  Click Here to support their work.
For more information on Pennsylvania’s efforts on the Bay, visit DEP’s Chesapeake Bay Plan webpage.
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