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Assessing the Role of Local Governments in Cleaning up the Bay

Mary-Carson Saunders. ©Margaret Pizer/VASG

Mary-Carson Saunders. ©Margaret Pizer/VASG

Factory.

Total Maximum Daily Yields (TMDLs) are intended to limit pollutants and nutrients released into the Bay. ©MPPDC

By Mary-Carson Saunders, WM Law Student and Fall 2011 VASG Law Intern

As a VASG law extern, I am working with Lewis Lawrence, Director of the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission, to research the role local governments must play in the new Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations.  The regulations mandate that the six Bay states and the District of Columbia create individual Watershed Implementation Plans (WIP) that outline how they will reduce the release of pollutants and nutrients into the bay.

Mary-Carson Saunders. ©Margaret Pizer/VASG

Mary-Carson Saunders. ©Margaret Pizer/VASG

The TMDL was established by the EPA and imposed under the federal Clean Water Act and President Obama’s Executive Order to clean up the Bay.  However, local governments are not legally required to meet any of the reduction standards.  Localities that have federal permits on facilities such as wastewater treatment plants are required by law to reduce nutrient discharge at those facilities. But localities within the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission do not contain such permitted facilities.

My project addresses the questions: “Why should local governments participate in this regulation if they are not required to do so?” and “What happens if local governments reject the regulatory reductions?” What we have found is that if a local government does not participate they will be assigned arbitrary goals that could be misrepresentative of their actual land use policy or current stormwater management plan. Thus, it is in the locality’s best interest to cooperate at the start to most effectively avoid potential conflict as the TMDL is implemented.

Note: Mary-Carson presented her conclusions to the Middle Peninsula Planning District Commission (MPPDC) on December 14th, 2011. MPPDC Acting-Executive Director Lewis Lawrence said “Mary-Carson clearly and comprehensively painted a picture of how and why local governments within the Chesapeake Bay should participate in the TMDL process.  The Chesapeake Bay TMDL issue is very complicated and Mary-Carson did an exceptional job characterizing the issues for elected officials to easily understand.