What impact will the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans for improving the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay have on localities in the Rivanna watershed? A variety of local environmental stakeholders gathered Monday afternoon to discuss this question at a discussion sponsored by the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission and the Rivanna River Basin Commission .
“Our rivers, streams and creeks are all critical aspects of this,” said Stephen Williams , executive director of the TJPDC . “It is hoped that our efforts to increase the quality in the Chesapeake Bay will also ultimately benefit us here at the local level, as the pollution that is flowing into our waterways is also reduced.”
The EPA has assigned a “pollution diet” to the bay, giving it a total maximum daily load of pollution from sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus runoff. This TMDL was determined by gathering pollution information from the localities within the Bay’s watershed during the first phase of the Virginia Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP).
James Davis-Martin, the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation’s Chesapeake Bay TMDL coordinator, said that the next step in cleaning up the bay is to delegate authority to local governments. WIP Phase II takes the TMDL information gathered during the first phase and distributes it by watershed to allow localities to create their own implementation plans.
“The goal is acceptable water quality in the Chesapeake Bay by 2025,” Davis-Martin said.
Virginia’s DCR will track progress made on the WIP II by assigning milestones that must be met every two years. The progress will then be monitored by yearly check-ins.
“Right now, for local governments, there is no requirement that we do anything,” said Mark Graham, Albemarle County’s director of community development. “There is a TMDL, but that hasn’t translated into anything that sets objectives for a local government.”
Irvin White, associate director of the Thomas Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District , said he was concerned about enforcement abilities.
“I don’t see how they can get out on these farms,” White said. “The [TJSWCD] has four employees for five counties. It’s very hard to do it.”
Davis-Martin also stated that state legislation has been passed that allows for pollution trading between sources. The idea of creating sediment trading banks was a popular idea with the stakeholders present.
Lonnie Murray , an elected official representing Albemarle on the TJSWCD, suggested that sediment and wetland trading banks be made a by-right use for rural areas, ensuring that the benefits of the banks would go into our local streams and rivers instead of the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a whole.
More information on WIP II and the TMDL process can be found at www.dcr.virginia.gov/vabaytmdl/index.shtml . The DCR will take public comments on the WIP II on their website, VABayTMDL@DCR.Virginia.gov , through May 31.