- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
The grades are out on local jurisdictions’ Watershed Implementation Plans and Charles County’s plan did not fare well.
Charles County’s WIP, which is intended to outline strategies to clean up the area’s waters, received the lowest grade possible, “Much More Work Ahead for Clean Local Waters,” from the Choose Clean Water Coalition, an organization comprising hundreds of nonprofits that seeks federal leadership to clean up the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The coalition includes organizations such as the 1,000 Friends of Maryland, the Mattawoman Watershed Society and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
The coalition found that Charles’ WIP plan and eight other county WIP plans are “skeletal and did not commit to clear implementation strategies,” according to the coalition’s report released last week.
The WIP is the state’s mechanism for local juridications to use to meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Chesapeake Bay total maximum daily load of nutrient pollution and sediment by 2025.
The bay TMDL, established in 2010, is 185.9 million pounds of nitrogen per year, 12.54 million pounds of phosphorus per year and 6.45 billion pounds of sediment per year.
Claudia Friedetzky, conservation representative with the Maryland Sierra Club, said Charles’ Watershed Implementation Plan focuses a lot on planning strategies, but shows no commitment to measures that begin to reduce nutrient pollution in the county’s waters.
“We need specific commitments to pollution reduction strategies and we need to see the analysis of how much the implementation strategies will reduce pollution and finally how these strategies will be funded,” Friedetzky said.
Charles’ WIP as proposed currently lists a schedule to develop a work strategy by June 30, 2013, through research, planning and coordiation with other agencies.
One of the major analyses to be developed is to project scenarios of “best management practices” and how much those practices will reduce nutrient pollition that clouds the bay and its waters.
The plan also includes interim strategies such as upgrading wastewater treatment plants, septic systems and stormwater systems.
The stormwater systems have explicit stormwater projects listed that are currently in the county’s capital improvement program, but those strategies do not include an analysis of how much they will reduce nutrient pollution.
Under septic systems, it proposes a strategy to upgrade 50 septic systems per year, using $200,000 from Maryland Department of the Environment in fiscal 2012, and use $100,000 in county funds to offset 25 percent of the upgrade cost in 2013.
The plan also estimates hooking up 10 septic systems a year to wastewater treatment plants, but no scientific analysis of the strategy’s results was given.
The plan states that the county wiill establish final cost estimates and funding sources by March 30, 2013, and finish developing the plan by June 29, 2013.
The lack of implementation early on received particular attention from Friedetzky.
“We cannot wait until 2013 until we start implementation strategies,” Friedetzky said.
In addition, Friedetzky said she wanted to see more of a connection between the county’s comprehensive plan and the WIP by reducing impervious surfaces that increase the speed of runoff, making them more likely to end up in local waters and the bay.
The Department of Planning and Growth Management, which developed the plan, referred a request for comments to commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D).
Kelly said she was very disappointed in the low grade.
“One of our goals is to be responsive and make sure we are meeting deadlines and benchmarks by this date, but in all fairness to staff, they are doing as much as they can with the resources we give them,” Kelly said.
“The board of county commissioners is going to do everything they can to support them. We’re going to improve this plan,” Kelly said.
Bonnie Bick, Southern Maryland representative with the Maryland Sierra Club, said the plan should be used to learn from past land use decisions that have run up debt on the county’s “clean water credit card.”
“It is extremely important that while we address the WIP, we discontinue making land use decisions that would take us away from our clean water goals,” she said.
Bick said that the county should protect its forests, which provide cheap stormwater services, wetlands and floodplains while development should be placed around existing infrastructure in the form of transit-oriented development.
“The taxpayer should have assurance that we don’t continue to make the same mistakes because the taxpayer will have to pay for those mistakes,” Bick said, adding that the county likely will have to pay a huge price to clean up existing water quality problems.
The other possible grades in increasing order were “A Plan Is Emerging, Significant Work Ahead,” “A Good Start, Much Work Remains” and “A Strong Start, Let’s Put It to Work.”
Jennifer Bevan-Dangel, state lead for the coalition and deputy director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland, said that the coalition initially reviewed the plans in December with the assistance of an independent consultant, Chris Jakubiak of Jakubiak & Associates in Towson.
Bevan-Dangel said that the three main criteria that the coalition looked at were a scientific assessment of the plan — how rigorous the scientific analysis was, the presence of clear commitments to implementation strategies and the funding of the plan.
Calvert County as well as Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Caroline, Dorchester and Montgomery counties received top marks for their plans.
St. Mary’s County received the second highest grade.
“Calvert listed specific reduction practices, and how they will be able to implement practices and how much it will cost for each individual practice,” Friedetzky said.
Bevan-Dangel said that the coalition was a little more understanding on estimating the funding of the WIP, since the availability of funds depends on the action of the Maryland General Assembly and thinking about funding usually comes at the end of the process.
Jurisdictions in Maryland have until July 2 to revise their plans, and environmentalists are hopeful for improvements.
“We’ve already seen a good response from a lot of counties and asked for advice on how to improve the plan,” which is what the coalition wanted to see, Bevan-Dangel said.
“We hope that the time left between now and July 2 is used to draft a solid and robust plan that the residents of Charles County can have confidence in and will be more impressive than what we’ve seen,” Friedetzky said.
To learn more
To obtain a copy of the Charles County Watershed Implementation Plan and other local jurisdictions’ plans, go to www.mde.state.md.us and click on Chesapeake Bay Watershed Implementation Plan. Then click on DRAFT Phase II Watershed Implementation Plan. Scroll down and click on the County Plans link.