Watershed Implementation Plans


CCC in Action

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) was established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in response to a 2009 Executive Order signed by President Obama and a May 2010 settlement of a lawsuit between the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the EPA (Fowler v. EPA), which created what is locally known as the "pollution diet" for the Chesapeake Bay. Under the TMDL, limits are established with respect to the threshold in the amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment which may be released into the Bay in order for it to function as a healthy estuary.

As part of the TMDL, each state within the Chesapeake Bay watershed (MD, VA, WV, PA, DE, and NY) must establish a Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) to achieve these goals within a specific timeline, with an ultimate end date of 2025. Maryland has already completed the creation of two WIPs, Phase I and Phase II, in the hope of satisfying these TMDL mandates. The Phase II WIP also required local governments to establish WIPs at the county scale, with the combination of all of the county WIPs supporting the overall State WIP.

The WIP process is currently in Phase III, with each jurisdiction developing goals based on midpoint assessment of progress and scientific analysis of water quality and other measurements. Actions outlined in Phase III will be implemented between 2018 and 2025. As a part of the review process, the Maryland Department of the Environment has called for the addition of a new jurisdiction specifically related to the Conowingo Dam and its environs. Currently in draft form, this new WIP includes the owner of Conowingo Dam, Exelon, as one of the parties responsible for addressing the pollution that has built up in the reservoir and rushes into the Upper Bay when extreme weather conditions cause scouring as spill gates are opened.

In the WIPs the State further instructed that certain measures must be undertaken to achieve the TMDL goals with regard to "source" sectors, including septics, stormwater, agriculture, and wastewater treatment plants. Each county in Maryland is also required to prepare, implement, and report on a WIP to reach TMDL goals by reducing the levels coming from point and non-point sources, including stormwater, wastewater, and agricultural runoff. These requirements were imposed without any regard to the economic costs and implications that would undoubtedly burden our local governments as a result. The agenda established by the State WIP creates an ineffective top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that does not consider the actual needs of, or their negative impact upon, our local governments and their taxpayers.

When the WIP is considered in combination with the other Federal and State requirements as part of the Bay cleanup, the costs imposed are exorbitant with little benefit. The Coalition believes that the WIP mandates must be recalibrated to meet the concerns of local governments, by giving counties the tools necessary to achieve TMDL success. By way of one example, counties should be given more leeway in determining the practices employed with respect to oyster restoration and switch grass as alternatives to expensive individual septic upgrades. Additionally, the Coalition firmly believes that the science used to construct the TMDL is fatally flawed in that it did not properly account for the failing capacity of the Conowingo Dam reservoir to trap the polluted sediments it contains.

To keep up with the timeline of WIP Phases, use this handy graphic produced by the Chesapeake Bay Program.

VIEW PRESENTATION MATERIALS FROM PAST WIP WORKSHOPS

View the Maryland Association of Counties blog posts regarding the WIP dilemna faced by taxpayers and our local governments.