Maryland on track to meet first set of short term Bay restoration goals
RICHMOND, VA (July 11, 2011) – At the Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting, Governor Martin O’Malley today announced that Maryland is 98 percent on the way to reaching its 2-year milestone commitments for reducing nitrogen and phosphorous into the Chesapeake Bay – a sign that the state is making significant progress toward reaching its short term Chesapeake Bay pollution reduction goal.
“While along with the other Bay states, we must await confirmation of our numbers from the EPA’s computer model at year’s end, our BayStat process allows us to accurately track our progress on a monthly basis,” said Governor O’Malley. “With our farmers planting record numbers of cover crops, our citizens planting trees and growing oysters, our municipalities upgrading wastewater treatment plants, and our legislators enacting important new laws, these numbers once again prove that here in Maryland, we don’t make excuses, we make progress.”
In an effort to dramatically accelerate Bay restoration progress, Governor O’Malley originally led the effort to establish short term pollution reduction goals during the 2009 Chesapeake Executive Council (EC) meeting. Maryland uses the BayStat process to continually assess and adapt its 2-year milestone achievements and goals to reflect actual conditions. Maryland’s goals for the period 2009-2011 were to reduce nitrogen by 3.75 million pounds and phosphorus by 193,000 pounds.
Since taking office in January of 2007, the O’Malley-Brown Administration has changed the way Maryland tracks, targets and funds its Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts. BayStat is now a model for a new federal Chesapeake-stat effort, GreenPrint and other interactive maps are helping target land preservation efforts, and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund has dedicated more than $65 million toward non-point source pollution projects since 2008.
“We cannot control some events – like this year’s heavy spring flows that will likely cause the Bay to struggle later this summer,” said Governor O’Malley. “But we can control how we manage the land that impacts our local streams, rivers and the Bay.”
In 2010 Maryland enrolled a record 1,567 farmers to plant more than 400,331 acres of cover crops, exceeding this milestone commitment. In 2009 the State issued new regulations and a permit to implement manure handling requirements on 85 percent of poultry litter. Maryland has also upgraded 23 of its largest wastewater treatment plants, with another 15 upgrades underway, which will prevent more than 1.7 million pounds of nitrogen from entering the Bay and local waterways each year. Through June 2011, the Bay Restoration Fund has awarded more than $400 million to local governments to fund wastewater treatment plant upgrades.
Maryland scientists recently updated the P Site Index (PSI), an assessment tool that identifies the relative risk for phosphorus losses from agricultural production fields to nearby bodies of water. Farmers use the PSI to develop agricultural nutrient management plans.
Approximately 95 percent of polluted stormwater runoff in Maryland comes from already developed land. Last year, the State enacted regulations to implement Maryland’s Stormwater Management Act requiring that, where feasible, “environmental site design” stormwater controls that keep water on-site and allow water to infiltrate into the ground -- vegetated swales, pervious pavers, green roofs -- must be used in all new development and re-development. A 2009 law requires new or replacement nitrogen-removing septic systems in the Critical Area and prioritizes funding to help homeowners comply. On June 21, Governor O’Malley named a broad cross-section of representatives from business, agriculture, science, environmental advocacy organizations and government to serve on a task force to study septic systems. Delegate Maggie McIntosh, Chair of the House Environmental Matters Committee, will lead the Task Force on Sustainable Growth and Wastewater Disposal.
As part of its Watershed Assistance Collaborative, the State recently launched a new Stormwater Financing and Outreach program to help local governments assess financing options to promote best practices while addressing community priorities such as increased green space, decreased infrastructure costs, and improved water quality. The program will work with two communities each year and will hold a series of workshops for municipal stormwater managers across Maryland. The Town of Berlin is the first municipality who will benefit from the program.
While funding remains a challenge, Governor O’Malley reiterated his commitment to working with the legislature to address shortfalls in both the Bay Restoration Fund, which pays for wastewater treatment plant upgrades, septic upgrades and cover crops, and the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund that pays for local level non-point source restoration projects.
In addition to reaching its milestones a full six months ahead of schedule, the state also reported good news for living resources: The Chesapeake Bay blue crab population is at its second highest level since 1997, and native oyster reproduction and survival rates are at their highest levels since 1997.
“The Chesapeake Bay connects us all. And by continuing to work together with our state, federal and local government partners the restoration of the greatest estuary in the world is achievable within our lifetime,” added Governor O’Malley.
In addition to working toward its 2011 milestones, the State of Maryland is currently working with local, county-based teams to develop Maryland’s Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP), which must include specific, locally based strategies to reduce nutrients and sediment to comply with the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load “pollution diet.” Not only will sticking to this “pollution diet” return the Bay to good health, it will restore water quality in Maryland streams, rivers, and reservoirs; protect drinking water and public health; reduce flooding; and create jobs.
The Executive Council, which establishes the policy direction for the restoration and protection of the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources, includes the Governors of Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Mayor of the District of Columbia and the chair of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.