WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following settlement of a lawsuit claiming that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had failed to take adequate measures to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, the agency released a new federal strategy for the Chesapeake region. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation; four former Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. elected officials; and organizations representing watermen and sports fishermen filed the lawsuit in January 2009.
The new strategy includes using regulations to restore clean water, implementing new conservation practices on 4 million acres of farms, conserving 2 million acres of undeveloped land, and rebuilding oysters in 20 tributaries of the bay. To increase accountability, federal agencies will establish milestones every two years for actions to make progress toward measurable environmental goals.
The “Strategy for Protecting and Restoring the Chesapeake Bay Watershed” was developed under an executive order issued by President Obama in May 2009; view the strategy at http://executiveorder.chesapeakebay.net.
To restore clean water, EPA will implement a Chesapeake total maximum daily load (TMDL), expand regulation of urban and suburban stormwater and concentrated animal feeding operations, and increase enforcement activities and funding for state regulatory programs.
By Dec. 31, 2010, EPA will establish the Chesapeake Bay TMDL, which, according to the agency, will be the largest and most complex ever developed in the nation, involving pollution sources throughout a 64,000-square-mile watershed that includes six states and the District of Columbia. In 2009, EPA announced that it expects the six watershed states and D.C. to provide detailed strategies for reducing pollutant loads to meet water quality standards. EPA also expects detailed schedules for implementing pollution controls and achieving pollution reductions. Progress will be measured through milestones every two years, and EPA said it may take action for inadequate plans or failure to meet the milestones. More information about the TMDL is available at www.epa.gov/chesapeakebaytmdl.
In addition, according to the strategy, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will provide farmers and forest owners throughout the bay watershed with the resources to prevent soil erosion and keep nitrogen and phosphorous out of local waterways. USDA will target federal funding to the places where it will have the greatest water quality impact and ensure that agricultural producers’ conservation efforts are accurately reported. USDA will also 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.