Watershed Implementation Plans

Tracking the Efficacy of the Bay's Pollution Diet

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.

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's Phase II WIP created an ineffective top-down, one-size-fits-all approach that did not consider the actual needs of, or its negative impact upon, our local governments and their taxpayers.

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 2019 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. Drafts of Phase III WIPs for each jurisdiction (other than Conowingo) have been released and were open for public comment until early June 2019. Scroll down to view each one in its current form.

The Phase III WIP for Maryland appears to have acknowledged the impracticable nature of Phase II and the comments CCC submitted reflect our members' appreciation of this more collaborative approach. Coalition counties are also pleased to see the State taking an interest in natural aquatic filters as a long--term strategy for improved water quality and climate resiliency. We are disappointed that aquaculture holds primacy in the plan given that a thriving wild oyster population provides more long-term benefit. Not only are most aquaculture specimens triploids (meaning they cannot reproduce), but they're kept in cages and removed at 2 1/2 inches (while wild oysters must be at least 3"). Floating or bottom cages will not result in new oyster bars which not only provide habitat for other Bay creatures, but also offer the benefit of new barriers that can reduce shoreline erosion. 

Ours is not an either/or position.  While we have focused much attention on the Conowingo factor and upstream pollution, we acknowledge the importance of addressing localized pollution sources and the water quality in our tributaries, creeks and streams.  We embrace an all-of-the-above strategy to improving and maintaining the health of the Chesapeake Bay; but with concerted attention on the largest point sources of pollution loading to the Maryland portion of the Bay and priority given to the most cost-effective endeavors.

Phase III WIP Drafts
New York
West Virginia

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

View Presentation Materials from Upper Eastern Shore Phase III WIP Workshop on June 15, 2018:
WIP Overview
Building a Phase III WIP
Agricultural Update
Funding Resources
Funding Part 2
Funding Part 3
Chesapeake Bay Trust 2018 Annual Report
Chesapeake Bay Trust FY19 Budget
Chesapeake Bay Trust Resiliency through Restoration Handout

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.

Other WIP and TMDL Resources

EPA Chesapeake Bay TMDL Website
U.S. Environmnetal Protection Agency

Maryland's Phase I Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
Maryland Department of the Environment

Maryland's Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL
Maryland Department of the Environment

Maryland WIP Phase II County Plans
Maryland Department of the Environment

EPA Expectations for Phase III WIPs
U.S. Environmnetal Protection Agency, ChesapeakeBay Program