Virginia submitted its Phase II Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan today to officials at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Governor Bob McDonnell announced. This extension to Phase I, submitted to EPA in 2010, seeks to build on the earlier version by localizing its actions to clean up pollution reaching the Chesapeake Bay. In addition, the Commonwealth announced that it is opening a 60-day public comment period allowing further public input on the plan while EPA completes its initial review. The comment period will run through May 3l.
Both versions of the cleanup plans were developed in response to EPA's establishment of a total maximum daily load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay. Virginia is one of seven Chesapeake Bay jurisdictions developing such plans. The TMDL sets goals for all the bay states and the District of Columbia to reduce the levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment entering the Chesapeake Bay from their rivers and streams. The plans identify reduction actions from all major sources, including sewage treatment plants, industrial facilities, urban areas, agriculture, forestry and septic systems.
"Virginia is blessed with the natural beauty, environmental asset and economic engine that is the Chesapeake Bay," said Governor McDonnell. "The bay is experiencing a remarkable resurgence in oyster, crab and rockfish populations, but it remains impaired and we all have to work to improve its health. Today Virginia is submitting our plan to address major sources of bay pollutants that will reduce runoff flowing to the bay and will support the recovery of this natural wonder."
In Phase II, EPA wanted reductions identified in the Phase I version divided among a number of local targets, and for the state to engage those localities to better understand their responsibilities. Localities are to then develop local strategies to mitigate runoff.
For much of 2011, state environmental agency staff conducted numerous meetings with stakeholders, citizens and localities throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed to encourage active involvement in the development and implementation of the Phase II plan.
Localities were briefed on how land uses and current best management practices were shown in EPA's watershed model, which is used to develop reduction goals for the TMDL process. They were asked to review the data and offer updates to provide the model with more accurate information. They were also asked to develop local reduction strategies and to provide a list of resources needed. Ninety-five percent of the bay localities actively participated and submitted some strategies that were aggregated in the Phase II plan.
"There is no doubt, that our outreach efforts resulted in local decision makers gaining a greater understanding of pollutant loadings from the land uses within their jurisdictions," said Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Doug Domenech. "They also gained an appreciation for their contribution to meeting the WIP reduction goals."
The strategies and actions outlined in the Phase II plan build on those outlined in Phase I. These include expanding the state's nutrient credit program, developing agricultural resource management plans, implementing revised storm water management regulations and implementing of new urban nutrient management requirements. The plan also provides guidance for moving forward, including better tracking of nutrient reduction actions and reporting through EPA's two-year milestones process.
"The Commonwealth's Phase II plan, which reflects the input of Virginia's stakeholders and EPA, provides a solid framework as we move forward," said Domenech. "Our work will not end with the submission of our Watershed Implementation Plan. As local strategies are refined, endorsed, and scheduled for implementation, they will be included as elements in the applicable two-year milestone plan. In this way, Virginia will move forward with a clear focus on partnership, flexibility and cost effectiveness. We will also rely on principles of adaptive management, taking advantage of new technology and cost-effective methods that may become available in years to come in order to achieve our goals."
While Phase II of the plan was developed with considerable local stakeholder participation, the state is also providing an additional 60-day period for public comment. These comments will be reviewed and considered as Virginia continues to work with EPA on issues of concern with the model before finalizing the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan.