Most Chesapeake Bay Watershed States Submit Cleanup Plans; A First Look at Virginia's

by Yee Huang

November 30, 2010

Yesterday was the deadline for Bay states and the District of Columbia to submit their final Phase I Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP). These WIPs are roadmaps that describe how Bay jurisdictions will meet their pollutant reduction obligations under the Bay TMDL. Delaware, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia submitted their plans by the deadline, while Maryland expects to submit in the coming days. New York, which has taken a position essentially in opposition to the Bay TMDL, has not said when it plans to submit its WIP. 

As the plans are made public, CPR will evaluate the plans based on metrics that we developed, and publish a report card. In the meantime, we’ll provide a look at some of the highlights and lowlights in the plans. Today, Virginia:

  • Significant improvement, but still lacking specific funding commitments. Virginia’s final WIP is a significant improvement from its draft WIP because it provides more concrete details regarding Chesapeake Bay-specific pollution reduction programs. However, it still does not provide estimates of resources needed and resources available to implement its programs. Without funding estimates, Virginia’s plan may never get off the ground. 
  • Increased detail on nutrient trading program. The draft WIP focused heavily on nutrient trading to allow sources to meet their allocations, but failed to provide detail on how trading would be monitored for effectiveness. The final WIP still relies on trading and provides a specific timeline for the introduction of legislation to expand the program. It also provides concrete examples of how trades would work and what reductions are available for trading. CPR has previously raised concerns about the effectiveness of trading.
  • Lacking baseline enforcement information. One of the purposes of the WIPs is to provide data on current enforcement performance, something from which future improvements and progress on enforcement can be measured. The final WIP still does not contain basic enforcement information for each sector covered by National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. For example, the final WIP does not state the number of physical, on-site inspections for wastewater facilities, nor does it list enforcement resources to cover permitted facilities. For CAFOs, the WIP does include data on the total number of enforcement actions in FY 2010, and it's quite interesting, showing only one formal enforcement action—of an estimated 116 CAFOs—for a total penalty of $6,500. If indeed only one of the 116 CAFOs was out of compliance, that would be, of course, rather astounding.
  • Specific identification of program gaps. The process of writing the WIPs gives states the opportunity to assess their resources and capacity to achieve pollutant reductions. In the final WIP, Virginia clearly identifies gaps in its programs, such as the number of small animal feeding operations that fall below the regulatory threshold. Virginia also identifies some contingency measures to fill these gaps but recognizes the lack of funding as an overarching obstacle. 

In the coming weeks, EPA will determine whether it intends to implement backstop measures to shore up the weaknesses in Virginia’s plans. Virginia’s plan has come a long way but still falls short of a concrete roadmap for achieving the pollutant reductions needed to restore the Bay.

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