More Partners to Table, But Don’t Let Polluters Off
Ben Grumbles - Maryland Secretary of the Environment
Maryland Secretary of the Environment
Current Issue
Parent Article

Our Chesapeake Bay is cleaner than it’s been in decades, thanks to world-class science, funding, regulations, and stewardship. But continuing challenges are fierce. Upstream and upwind pollution, development and growth pressures, and climate change impacts loom large. We need to add smarter tools, not simply more of the same if we expect to achieve the 2025 TMDL cleanup goals. State environmental, agricultural, and natural resource agencies must build upon current progress with a greater push for prevention, innovation, and collaboration.

Prevention upstream means progress for the entire watershed. About half of all the fresh water and at least a quarter of all the nutrients and sediments entering the bay flow down the Susquehanna River from New York, Pennsylvania, and Maryland to and through the Conowingo Dam. The TMDL didn’t plan on the loss of trapping capacity behind the dam until 2025. The reservoir is now over 90 percent full, clouding our clean water future because of continual leakage, but this megaton blind spot behind the dam is 100 percent manageable if we take action now with a more holistic and proactive approach.

Maryland will insist that all states in the bay watershed, the owner of the dam, and our federal partners work closely together to do their fair share to ensure improvements we’ve all made with agriculture, wastewater, stormwater, and septic systems aren’t suddenly wiped out by a stormy flush or slowly eroded by pollution that used to be stored behind the Conowingo.

Maryland is focused on the environmental responsibilities of the dam owner, who is seeking a 46-year license renewal from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and a Clean Water Act Section 401 water quality certification from the state. This is one of the biggest opportunities in decades to prevent pollution, promote aquatic wildlife, and manage downstream flows, while also boosting clean renewable energy — Conowingo provides significant hydroelectricity to homes and businesses.

Innovation is about getting better results at less cost in new ways. We are finalizing policies and regulations for market-based nutrient-reduction projects to help launch a statewide restoration economy, grounded in transparency and accountability. Whether you call it nutrient trading or clean water commerce, the project partnerships that result can mean better restoration without impairing local waterways. With EPA support, we’ll continue to look carefully at interstate nutrient trading and other collaborative ideas to stimulate green infrastructure and pollution prevention, without throwing away any of our existing tools.

One of the more innovative initiatives is beneficial reuse of dredged material. Maryland is moving forward with a 25,000-cubic-yard pilot project to recover valuable resources, formerly known as “spoil,” and put them to work. Clean dredged sands and soils from river channels and waterways often have untapped value in restoring wetlands, creating habitat, and shoring up land at risk due to sea-level rise. They can also be used as building materials and land amendments for healthier soils.

We’re also getting results from public-private partnerships, such as green infrastructure projects managed by a private entity to comply with aggressive stormwater pollution permits in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and pay for performance projects in the state’s 2010 Trust Fund.

Collaboration among bay partners and jurisdictions must grow stronger than ever. Whether you call it cooperative federalism (a term used 40 years ago to describe the Clean Water Act) or shared governance, the basic point is this: the federal government has a critical role in restoring and protecting a national treasure and states, who are on the front lines, must continue to lead and not lose sight of their downstream neighbors.

The last and hardest phase of the TMDL will underscore the need for closer coordination with local governments and for accountability at the state and federal levels. When it comes to the bay TMDL, Congress should not prevent EPA from continuing to serve as a science adviser, interstate umpire, or enforcer of state agreed-upon milestones and implementation plans. Maryland prefers collaboration over confrontation, but as we’ve shown in the Hogan administration, we are willing to go to court and Congress to ensure EPA and others remain committed to environmental progress in the Chesapeake Bay and beyond.

The really good news for 2018: Every bay state is committing to more prevention, innovation, and collaboration. We are developing a Conowingo Watershed Implementation Plan and a multi-pronged Climate Change Strategy to offset substantial new loadings and increase resilience and preparedness as priorities for the bay progress. We are also working across the aisle in Washington, D.C., and in every Chesapeake capital for continued support of science, infrastructure, and enforcement accountability and for innovations that bring more partners to the table without letting polluters off the hook.

The Debate: Chesapeake Bay Getting Healthier But New Gains Face Funding Cuts, Policy Challenges
Nick DiPasquale - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program (2011-17)
Dena Leibman - Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
Ben Grumbles - Maryland Department of the Environment
Cindy Adams Dunn - Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Verna Harrison - Verna Harrison, LLC
Jon Mueller - Chesapeake Bay Foundation
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Chesapeake Bay Program (2011-17)
Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture
Maryland Department of the Environment
Pa. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
Verna Harrison, LLC
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Current Issue
The Debate: Chesapeake Bay Getting Healthier But New Gains Face Funding Cuts, Po

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay Program announced in December that almost 40 percent of the bay meets standards for oxygen, water clarity, and algae growth. Progress toward restoration is impressive, but getting the remaining 60 percent of the waters into alignment will be difficult.

In 2010, after years of halting restoration efforts, EPA established enforceable pollution limits for the Chesapeake — known as the Total Maximum Daily Load — covering nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution. The six bay states — Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia — and the District of Columbia later released their plans to meet those limits by 2025. This ambitious Clean Water Blueprint survived a legal challenge, and in recent years federal, state, and local governments have pressed ahead with their plans to achieve pollution reductions. 

As we reach the midway point for the 2025 deadline, it is clear that progress is being made across the watershed. Water quality and clarity have improved, the acreage of underwater bay grasses has increased, crab harvests are rebounding, and efforts to restore oyster populations are accelerating. Just as important, an outdoor recreational economy (exclusive of recreational fishing) is valued at as much as a quarter billion dollars per year and is growing. 

But despite recent progress, most notably in reducing pollution from wastewater treatment plants, significant challenges remain across the watershed in meeting nonpoint source pollution reductions from agriculture and urban and suburban runoff whose controls are more difficult. 

This Debate in Print occurs as there is a standoff in Washington about future funding for bay restoration, a minor item in the struggle to pass a measure funding the government. The Trump administration has proposed dramatic funding cuts for the Chesapeake Bay Program and other federal initiatives that support restoration efforts. The House is considering less severe cuts, but so far the Senate recommends full funding. Without adequate federal funding, the initiative to save the bay is in jeopardy. 

Recognizing the significant progress that has been made and the important challenges that remain, the Forum asks our panel for their views on what must happen in the years ahead if the goal of restoring the Chesapeake is to succeed.

THE DEBATE ❧ EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program has produced impressive results. The bay states’ ambitious Clean Water Blueprint survived a legal challenge, and federal, state, and local governments have achieved impressive pollution reductions. But as the states ramp up their efforts, there is a standoff in Washington about funding.

Green Infrastructure for Chesapeake Stormwater Management: Legal Tools for Climate Resilient Siting
Cynthia R. Harris & James McElfish
Date Released
August 2017
Green Infrastructure for Chesapeake Stormwater Management: Legal Tools for Clima

One of the greatest impacts of climate change on the Chesapeake Bay watershed will be stormwater management. The Chesapeake region is in the position to take national leadership on the issue of climate change impacts to our vulnerable coastal communities. Rather than resorting to retreat, or relying on conventional stormwater strategies already proving ineffective, the people of Maryland and Virginia have an opportunity to demonstrate their resiliency in the face of change.

Mid-Atlantic States Join Forces to Advance Offshore Wind Energy
June 2013

(Washington, DC) — In coordination with the Environmental Law Institute (ELI), the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council on the Ocean (MARCO) has released A Guide to State Management of Offshore Wind Energy in the Mid-Atlantic Region. The guide provides an overview of the issues affecting offshore wind energy projects in the region and identifies the basic elements of state authority to address resource concerns and competing uses such as navigation and fishing.