EPA Releases New Strategy for Chesapeake Bay

These strategies and practices will likely spread across the nation

by James Laughlin, Managing Editor

These strategies and practices will likely spread across the nation

The new federal strategy for the Chesapeake region, announced in early May, focuses on protecting and restoring the environment in communities throughout the 64,000-square-mile watershed and in its thousands of streams, creeks and rivers. And, of course, the Chesapeake Bay itself.

Industrial dischargers should be tracking this strategy whether they are in the Chesapeake region or not. It is highly likely that regulations and practices implemented to protect the Bay will one day spread across the nation.

The “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” was developed under an executive order issued by President Obama in May 2009. It includes using new regulations to restore clean water, developing new conservation practices for farms and conserving two million acres of undeveloped land in the region.

The announcement was made a day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency settled a lawsuit brought by bay advocates in which the agency agreed to enforce tough new standards for the bay.

“We plan to devote unprecedented resources to this,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said at an event on the Anacostia River. “We are holding ourselves accountable for nothing short of real, measurable results.”

To help restore clean water, EPA will implement the Chesapeake total maximum daily load (a pollution diet for the Chesapeake Bay and local waterways), expand regulation of urban and suburban stormwater and concentrated animal feeding operations and increase enforcement activities and funding for state regulatory programs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide farmers and forest owners throughout the bay watershed with resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nitrogen and phosphorous out of local waterways. USDA has committed to funneling federal funding to the places where it will have the greatest water quality impact. USDA also said it will lead a federal initiative to develop a watershed-wide environmental services market that would allow producers to generate tradable water quality credits in return for installing effective conservation practices.

To protect priority lands, the Department of the Interior will launch a collaborative Chesapeake Treasured Landscape Initiative and expand land conservation by coordinating federal funding and providing community assistance. Interior will also develop a plan for increasing public access to the bay and its rivers.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will launch a bay-wide oyster restoration strategy in cooperation with Maryland and Virginia. The strategy focuses on priority tributaries, expanding commercial aquaculture and promoting research on oyster stock, habitat and restoration progress.

EPA has also issued guidance to help federal facilities reduce their pollution to the bay. The guide discusses ways to reduce water pollution from a variety of nonpoint sources, including agricultural lands, urban and suburban areas and septic systems.

The tools and practices outlined in the document are based on current scientific and technical literature and are said to be the most state-of-the-art approaches to reduce water pollution from nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment. Others in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, including states, local governments, conservation districts, and watershed organizations, can also benefit from the information presented in the guide.

To view the strategy, visit http://executiveorder.chesapeakebay.net. The Federal Facilities guidance is available online at www.epa.gov/nps/chesbay502.

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