Under the Federal Clean Water Act, the Chesapeake Bay must adhere to a “pollution diet” that defines the maximum amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment that the Bay can manage on an annual basis. Practices to achieve these pollution limits set by the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) must be fully in place by 2025, with 60 percent of the tools and practices designed to achieve these amounts in place by 2017.
The TMDL remained a central focus of the Commission in 2012. Protection and enhancement of funding sources was a critical issue in all three member states, as was the evolution of emerging strategies intended to accelerate pollution reductions (for example, manure to energy initiatives and nutrient trading analyses). As states began their first round of progress reporting under the TMDL, the Commission also engaged in analyzing methods to improve the accuracy and transparency of implementation tracking.
The Commission advanced efforts begun in 2011 to determine how the water quality benefits of land conservation might be factored into the Bay TMDL. The advent of the TMDL in 2010 focused energies on pollution reductions (nutrient and sediment) but overlooked the value of land conservation in achieving these reductions and improved water quality. A pro bono legal analysis determined that the Clean Water Act, a Presidential executive order, and the TMDL itself supported the use of land conservation as tool for protecting water quality. With this, staff reached out to the jurisdictions and other Bay partners as we structured a select group of creative experts to explore innovative concepts. As the year ended, staff continued to refine ideas for completion of the study in 2013.
The Commissions’ Report “Nutrient Credit Trading for the Chesapeake Bay, an Economic Study” published in May 2012 showed trading had the possibility of delivering significant cost savings as jurisdictions implement practices to achieve the TMDL pollution reductions.
Ensuring that nutrient trading actually results in reductions of nutrient pollution flowing to the Bay, and trading pollution loads from one source with another does not degrade local waters was a critically important aspect of trading considered by the Commission. The Commission concluded that rigorous and transparent verification of pollution reduction tools and practices done on a regular basis is necessary to ensure that trading is delivering genuine nutrient reductions. The Commission also recognized that details like “trading ratios” and “margin of safety” must also be addressed if trading is to be used to meet our Bay restoration goals.
The Commission’s recognition that the overarching goal of the Bay clean-up is the restoration of living resources led it to
- Monitoring the rebound in numbers of blue crab. This stemmed from recent strategic management measures supported by the Commission in Maryland and Virginia.
- Engaging fisheries managers and the seafood industry to reveal and clarify policy actions to improve fisheries management in the Potomac River and the state waters bay-wide. Members and staff worked closely on the development of joint legislative actions to be brought before the Maryland and Virginia legislatures in 2013 that would strengthen illegal fishing penalties.
- Working to expand oyster restoration activities in the Potomac and other rivers.
MANURE TO ENERGY
Building upon its precedential work in biofuels, the Commission moved to promote manure-to-energy as an innovative tool to help restore the Bay. The Commission members focused their efforts on ways to promote wider adoption of the practice, and on attracting private investment. Of equal importance to its members was ensuring that the practice both accomplishes nutrient reductions while protecting air quality.
Supporting innovators led the Commission to assist the Farm Manure-to-Energy Pilot Project. This project will implement on-the-ground pilots in each member state and will disseminate information on the feasibility, nutrient fate, economics and environmental impacts of each project. These “lessons learned” will help promote wider adoption of manure-to-energy initiatives.
“Lessons learned” from successful manure to energy projects was the outcome of a valuable trip to Ireland and England as guests of the government of Ireland. This visit provided some of the Commission leadership the opportunity to compare our state and federal policies with the policies in these two European countries, where manure-to-energy is already a more viable technology than in the United States.