The draft guidelines released by the EPA on March 22 endorse, among other practices, the installation of porous pavement and green roofs on federal lands in the Chesapeake Bay watershed –recommendations apparently unaffected by heated debate in Annapolis about how to handle the troubled bay ecosystem.
Cisterns for collecting and reusing rainwater as well as added vegetation were also recommended in the EPA guidelines. According to the guidance draft, these practices were chosen “based on known performance data and cost.”
Low-Impact Development (LID) technology, according to the EPA, “…is now well-proven and shown to be adaptable for implementation at new development, redevelopment, and retrofit sites.” The guidelines also state that LID practices are “necessary to achieve the goals of protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay.”
These recommendations fall under stormwater management, one piece of the bay restoration puzzle, which also includes changes in agricultural and political practices. The guidelines are still a draft, subject to additional scrutiny and comment from the public and private sectors of the watershed during the next month.
Citing practices taken in 2004 by the City of Portland, Ore., the draft lists the following conservation guidelines:
- Fitting development to the terrain to minimize land disturbance
- Confining construction activities to the least area necessary and away from critical areas
- Preserving areas with natural vegetation (especially forested areas) as much as possible
- On sites with a mix of soil types, locating impervious areas over less permeable soil (e.g., till), and trying to restrict development over more porous soils (e.g., outwash)
- Clustering buildings together
- Minimizing impervious areas
- Maintaining and using the natural drainage patterns
The Environmental Protection Agency recently asked the federal government to “lead the Chesapeake Bay restoration by example” by adopting recommendations for nutrient reduction on their own lands, according to an article written by the Associated Press.
“Federal agencies own nearly 8 percent of the watershed’s land, making it one of the largest land owners in the watershed,” wrote Alex Dominguez, staff writer for Associated Press.
Most stories about who is responsible for polluting the Chesapeake Bay tend to point to farmers, developers and ordinary citizens. Rarely do people think of the federal government as a bay polluter, not just through lack of enforcement of regulations or funding allocation, but through management of its own farmlands.
It is easy to remain skeptical of President Obama’s the Executive Order requiring all government agencies to do what they can to help restore the bay, but this AP story, along with others, suggest that the Environmental Protection Agency is making an attempt to curb pollution of the Chesapeake Bay in new ways.
Earlier this month, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Assateague Coastal Trust filed a lawsuit against Perdue Farms and a couple who own a chicken farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, alleging that runoff from the farm was polluting the nearby Pocomoke River.
The lawsuit may not seem all that surprising to folks on the Eastern Shore, where chicken waste is a significant source of pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, but it has stirred heated debate in the state Senate.
Some Maryland lawmakers were irked upon learning that the state-supported environmental law clinic at the University of Maryland School of Law had done legal work for the plaintiffs. Following lively discussion, the state Senate approved language requiring the legal clinic to submit a report on its clients and expenditures to the General Assembly–or risk having $250,000 in state funds withheld from its budget. The House of Delegates voted to withhold even more–$500,000– from the clinic’s budget if the report is not filed by August, according to a report in the Washington Post.
On Monday, March 22, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released draft guidance for management of federal lands within the Chesapeake Bay watershed. This guidance was mandated in President Obama’s May 12, 2009 Executive Order on Chesapeake Bay Protection and Restoration.
Section 502 of the order states, “The Administrator of the EPA shall, within 1 year of the date of this order and after consulting with the Committee and providing for public review and comment, publish guidance for federal land management in the Chesapeake Bay watershed describing proven, cost-effective tools and practices that reduce water pollution, including practices that are available for use by Federal agencies.”
The Chesapeake Bay Program explains that the draft guidance presents specific practices for reducing water pollution that will bring the government closer to its Clean Water Act goal of making the bay once again “fishable and swimmable.” The suggestions are specifically addressed to federal land managers, but can also be implemented by state and local governments. The guidance recommends agricultural practices for federal lands that reduce the delivery of phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment to the bay and its tributaries. It also discusses the impact of nonpoint source pollution and makes recommendations about development on federal lands. The guidance suggests the use of green infrastructure for on-site use of stormwater to reduce pollution.
The public has 30 days to comment on the guidance. Comments will be accepted online or by mail and incorporated into the public docket. The comment period ends April 23, 2010 at 11:59 p.m.
If you find yourself with a pesky $30 ticket for for illegally parking in the District of Columbia during street-sweeping hours this year, consider it a donation toward cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay.
D.C. enacted opposite-side-of-the-street parking laws this month as the city gears up for street sweepers to take on the roads of the national capital.
As irritating as it might be for citizens to have to change their parking habits, environmentalists believe the sweepers are doing a public service by helping control toxic runoff into the Chesapeake Bay.
According to WTOP Radio, street sweepers remove 40,000 pounds of oil and grease from District streets every month. That removal leads to a drop of 3,000 pounds of nitrogen and phosphorous runoff per month that usually finds its way into the highly polluted Anacostia and Potomac rivers, which in turn empty into the bay.
So anything the city can do to control runoff, especially to the troubled Anacostia, is seen as a step forward for bay restoration efforts. In addition to runoff from city streets, the District’s shoddy sewer system dumps billions of gallons of raw sewage into the river, and much sediment runs off from the Washington Navy Yard.
To help restore the Chesapeake Bay, the Oyster Recovery Partnership launched a new recycling program this week. The Oyster Recovery Partnership Shell Recycling Alliance will aim to collect used oyster shells with the goal of growing new oysters on them in hatcheries.
Stephan Abel, executive director of ORP, told the Associated Press that the idea for this recycling program came from oyster shuckers themselves. Restaurants, hotels, catering venues and any other seafood distributor can request bins and receive 5-gallon buckets in which to put their used shells. According to the program’s Web site, the Alliance will then arrange to have the shells picked up throughout the Washington/Baltimore/Annapolis region. Twenty groups have agreed to take part in the ORP thus far.
Officially, the program kicked off in Baltimore this week after a pilot recycling program was deemed successful. According to Southern Maryland Online, over the last 18 months the pilot program collected more than 1.5 million shells locally. ORP hopes to collect at least 200,000 bushels of oysters each year to help replenish the dwindling oyster population in the Bay.
Last year, President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order calling on the federal government to “define environmental goals for the Chesapeake Bay” and take the lead in organizing restoration efforts. This month, the Chesapeake Bay Program posted draft goals and outcomes for this initiative on its Web site about the Executive Order and solicited public comments.
The draft spells out goals, such as restoring water quality and fish and wildlife populations; it also describes “measurable outcomes,” outlining how the achievements would be defined. The Web site states that public feedback will be used to help finalize the government’s strategy for the Chesapeake Bay, set to be released May 12. The Web site will be open for comments until April 2.
It’s worth asking, though, whether public feedback will truly be considered, or if the whole thing is just a nice public relations move. But first there is the question whether public feedback will come at all.
There’s not much online buzz about the plans – so far, just a couple of comments on the Web site where they are posted. And a quick Google News search soon after the draft was published yielded just one five-paragraph story published elsewhere about the draft. On such a big issue, one might reasonably expect a greater public response, perhaps some speculation, at least something in the great communications platform that is the Internet.
Given more time, it is possible that the requested public comments–which could generate new ideas and point out overlooked points and missteps in the plans–still might not appear online.
While past public forums about the Executive Order and a draft strategy released in November did inspire discussion, not much of it has appeared on the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Web site. All the stories and documents posted on the home page have yielded only one true comment, along with one pingback and two trackbacks. In November and December, the public did have the option of sending comments directly to the government. But still, the fact that so little has been discussed in public on the bay program’s official Executive Order Web site could signal that the site is not bringing enough public exposure to the Chesapeake Bay restoration plans. It might even signal that the public is largely apathetic to the Chesapeake Bay restoration.
Regardless of why the public isn’t engaging on the topic, it could spell trouble for the Bay and the potential success or failure of the Executive Order.
As if the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort needed more setbacks, the University of Maryland Extension announced that state budget cuts will affect the state’s nutrient management program for the upcoming year, likely leading to job cuts.
This is hardly unexpected, but serves as yet another reminder of the uphill battle that Maryland bay preservationists face in mitigating the deteriorating conditions of the nation’s largest estuary.
This month, the University of Maryland found out that it had escaped budget cuts, allowing the university to keep its part of the bay clean-up coffers untouched.
All of which leads back to the main question: What progress are bay preservationists making? How is that progress measured?
Earlier this month, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania missed “milestones” in regards to the bay restoration effort.
It appears that money has not been scant in regards to the clean up, with $50 million pledged in 2007 by the Maryland General Assembly. News21 reporter Rabiah Burks touched on the broken promises of the clean up effort a couple of weeks ago. Two years ago, this was an issue. Now, it’s still an issue.
With the Maryland General Assembly set to cut half of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s $20 million bay cleanup budget for the upcoming year, it seems that a lack of accountability might be joining budget cuts as a major obstacle to an improved bay.
In October of last year, the EPA began its first experiment with pervious pavement, with the completion of a 43,000 square-foot parking lot for its environmental laboratory in Edison, NJ. According to the EPA, the main goals of installing this parking lot are to reduce stormwater runoff and study the effectiveness of three different types of permeable surfaces.
Here is a demonstration of the porous concrete section of the parking lot:
The parking lot replaced and reused concrete from the nearly 300,000 square-foot parking lot previously used in Edison. Now, the lot has 28 parking spaces of interlocking concrete paver blocks, 41 spaces of porous concrete and 28 spaces of porous asphalt.
Currently, the parking lot is in regular use and a portion of the stormwater is being collected through pipes underneath the pavement. This allows the EPA to measure and test how well the three surfaces let water pass through, filter contaminants out and reduce flow of stormwater to receiving waters.
Debate over how to reduce pollution from storm water is intensifying in the Chesapeake Bay region as federal agencies are setting new pollution limits for the bay’s tributaries. Here are some resources to help frame the debate: