Tomorrow, the Environmental Protection Agency will issue its final Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay, setting a pollution cap for the Bay that is comprised of 92 individual caps for each of the tributary segments that flow into the Bay. The Bay TMDL represents another important milestone in the long-running effort to clean up the Bay, the largest estuary in North America, and return it to health. Part of EPA’s release will include its response to the Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) submitted to EPA this fall by the six watershed states and the District of Columbia, which all contribute to nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution in the Bay. The WIPs set forth the states’ planning to date to implement the pollution-control efforts that the TMDL will demand.
Since the states submitted their plans, a panel of CPR Member Scholars has been evaluating them, and we will shortly release grades for each state’s WIP. We’re eager to see EPA’s response to the plans, and intend to incorporate into our own report anything from EPA’s release that materially affects the WIPs themselves.
Without scooping our own report, I can say that the WIPs as a whole were still disappointing. Some plans are better than others, either in terms of the pollution-control programs they sketch out, or in terms of the transparency the states say they intend for their efforts. But by and large, the states’ plans simply don’t go far enough or commit to enough to demonstrate that they will indeed lead to significant improvement in the water quality of the Bay without additional prompting from EPA.
That makes EPA’s release tomorrow all the more important, and why it’s going to be so very critical that EPA and, for that matter, the public keep the pressure on the states to pursue genuine efforts to clean up the Bay. Too often in recent years, the efforts have sounded a whole lot more impressive in press releases than they have been on the ground or in the water. It’s long past time for that to change, and we remain hopeful that EPA is on track to help – or make – the states do just that.
We plan to publish our evaluation of the states’ WIPs in a matter of days, but of course want to take a look at what EPA has to say tomorrow. Watch this space.