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Maryland is now addressing the last piece of our Bay restoration plan – how to account for new growth and development that threatens to add more pollution to our local waters, even as State and local governments make investments to restore them. To succeed, this policy must meet two goals. First, new growth should be managed to ensure that it creates the least pollution possible and produces the most economic benefits. Second, the policy for offsetting those new sources of pollution must be verifiable, transparent and enforceable in order for us to truly achieve a healthy Bay and local waters for our residents.
Maryland is projected to lose 400,000 acres of rural lands in the next fifteen years. Large-lot development in these rural areas pollutes significantly more than compact development served by water and sewer. Compact development of just eight houses per acre produces almost a quarter of the pollution compared to building one house per acre. And Maryland’s Department of the Environment estimates that if all new development projected to occur on well and septic by 2030 was, instead, serviced by advanced wastewater treatment plants, the total anticipated load from development would be reduced by more than half.
Although the draft policy is generally on the right track, there are several areas of concern that must be addressed. It is critical that the accounting for growth policy is strong enough to meet our ultimate goal of clean local waters.
Conservation groups released today a report to help Counties clean their local waters and the Chesapeake Bay. Cleaning up Local Waters and the Bay: Ideas and Best Management Practices in Maryland’s Watershed Implementation Plans describes the elements needed for strong, effective, attainable clean water plans. The report also describes some of the most innovative ideas from jurisdictions across the State.
This summer is a critical time for our local waters as the Counties finalize their plans and begin to implement them. This report provides helpful tools to make County plans stronger and ready for action. Jurisdictions still struggling with their plans will find great, economical ideas to ensure we have clean water everywhere in the state.
Across the board, strong local plans:
- Are multi-jurisdictional – involving the municipalities, counties, state and federal offices, as well as the private, non-profit and academic sectors in joint decision-making.
- Provide a forum for not only planning but also tracking and reporting progress.
- Provide a meaningful role for local citizens and citizen groups to work effectively for clean water solutions
As Maryland works alongside other Bay watershed states, Washington DC and the federal government to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, the importance of the implementation at the local level cannot be overstated. Local clean water plans equal local control and local benefits, including clean, healthy water in our rivers and streams; safe places to swim and to fish; protected drinking water; local jobs; and a thriving seafood industry.
Pollution control is local. Local leaders must be engaged in this process, for they play a crucial role in achieving pollution reduction goals. Local plans contain key strategies for who does what and when.
The local jurisdictions submitted draft plans to MDE in December of 2011, and MDE submitted a final plan for the State to EPA in March of 2012. MDE has asked that revisions and updates to the plans be submitted by July 2nd. We encourage local jurisdictions to continue to evaluate and refine their plans during the implementation phase. These Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans are intended to provide a “road map” of how each jurisdiction will achieve necessary nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment reductions by 2025.
We know clean local rivers and streams matter. But how do we know whether our county is on track to clean local waters? Barometers released today answer that question. They show what progress counties have made and what it will take to finish the job. Counties have between now and July to improve or refine their local plans. The counties’ submissions fell into four broad categories. Click on the county name to read their barometer:
- “A Strong Start, Let’s Put it to Work” – Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester, and Montgomery.
- “A Good Start, Much Work Remains” – Baltimore City, Howard, Kent, Prince George’s, St. Mary’s, and Talbot.
- “A Plan is Emerging, Significant Work Ahead” – Harford, Queen Anne’s, and Wicomico.
- “Much Work Ahead for Clean Local Waters” – Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Somerset, Washington, and Worcester.
With so many excellent models from across the state, including both urban and rural counties, we know that every county can develop a strong plan by July.
The counties were evaluated against three main factors:
- Does the plan compute – does the plan provide a measurable path toward long-term pollution reduction targets?
- Are there short-term commitments – does the plan list the actions each county needs to take in the next two years (2-year milestones)?
- Will it be paid for – does the plan list the funding needed to cover the local costs of reducing the county’s share of pollution?
Want to know more about the barometers? Read the press release here.
Today Maryland will release an important plan for restoring the Bay. Called the Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan, this draft plan should show show clear next steps on how Maryland will meet its pollution reduction goals.
But the eyes of citizens are not just on the State. For this effort to succeed and clean not just the Bay but also local waters, local governments must play a prominent role in developing – and implementing – their own clean water plans.
Conservation advocates have been reviewing the local efforts so far, and are concerned that most of the draft submissions were weak or incomplete. However, local governments still have time to produce strong clean water plans before the July 2012 final deadline.
Restoring the Chesapeake Bay starts in our backyards – in the rivers and streams our families know and love. The counties are already thinking differently about how they can structure staff, resources, and funding to meet clean water goals. The next few months will determine if the new way of thinking will translate into a new way of acting – and result in clean waters. Marylanders who want local rivers and streams to be healthy will be watching and holding county governments accountable.
Throughout September, the Center for Agro-Ecology is hosting five regional workshops with detailed information on how counties can clean local waters. These workshops will provide an overview of how things are going so far, especially from the teams tackling agriculture runoff, and will provide financing and technical tools for counties struggling with urban pollution.
Here is more information, including a full agenda.
To register for these workshops, go here. (Warning: you have to scroll down a long way to find the ‘class’ you are registering for! Scroll to the Natural Resources and Water Quality category, then find your Fall Phase II WIP Workshop on the drop down menu.)
Can’t attend? Urge your local elected officials to go. Our local leaders must show they are committed to this process and committed to cleaning local waters. Attending these workshops will not only give them the tools and information to do a better job drafting their plans, but it will show they are engaged and interested in the process.
List of workshops:
Western Maryland (Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington)
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Williamsport Banquet Hall, 2 Brandy Drive, Williamsport, MD 21795
Upper Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne’s, and Talbot)
Friday, September 16, 2011
The Milestone (formerly Krystal Q), 9630 Technology Drive, Easton, MD 21601
Lower Western Shore (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Montgomery, Prince George’s, and St. Mary’s)
Thursday, September 22, 2011
IC Hall, 28297 Old Village Road, Mechanicsville, MD 20659
Central Maryland (Baltimore City, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, and Howard)
Friday, September 23, 2011
University of Maryland Baltimore County (Ballroom), 1000 Hilltop Circle, Baltimore, MD 21250
Lower Eastern Shore (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, and Worcester)
Friday, September 30, 2011
Salisbury University, Guerrieri University Center, 1101 Camden Avenue, Salisbury, MD 21801