March 30 was the deadline for the six Bay states to deliver updated, state-specific Bay cleanup plans to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plans, called Phase 2 Watershed Implementation Plans, or WIPs, are to serve as the state blueprints for restoring the Bay by 2025.
They’re a pretty big deal.
The plans are the third or fourth iteration of the WIPs. More general plans were initially drafted and given to EPA in fall of 2010, then revised and strengthened after a public comment period (and much public criticism) late in 2010.
First drafts of the Phase 2 plans debuted in December. Virginia’s plan and those of Maryland and Pennsylvania lacked much of the expected local data, however, and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), among others, called on the states to beef up their plans with many more local details, especially the goals and strategies for reducing pollution from farms and urban areas. After all, how can CBF, EPA, or Bay region citizens know whether the states are serious about restoring the Bay if they don’t tell you more precisely how they intend to do it and commit to specific actions?
It’s a bit too soon to know whether the plans will deliver on the necessary details. Stay tuned for more on the state WIPs in the coming days. To see Virginia's plan, click here.
In another development last week, the Virginia Soil and Water Conservation Board began asking for public comment on proposed regulations designed to provide Virginia farmers with “safe harbor” from future Chesapeake Bay cleanup requirements. Farmers have complained about the uncertainty of not knowing what future Bay cleanup rules and regulations may require of agriculture. They say they just want to know what’s expected of them regarding Bay restoration, then be left alone to do it.
Virginia’s Resource Management Plan (RMP) regulations aim to provide that certainty by specifying what practices farmers must employ to be in compliance with the Bay pollution limits and thus “safe harbored” from future requirements. CBF supports this safe harbor concept but has asked the state board to work with EPA to determine the pollution impact of the proposed program and answer a fundamental question: Will it, in fact, achieve the Bay cleanup goals for agriculture? Without that knowledge, CBF is left to wonder whether 2025 will arrive, Virginia will have missed its cleanup goal, and the Bay will not be restored.
To see Virginia's proposed RMP regulations, click here.
And finally, Bay Daily would like to note the recent passing of Louise Burke, a transplanted Californian who moved to Richmond, Va., with her husband in 1956 and immediately fell in love with the city’s James River and surrounding landscapes. Long before many in the Richmond area grasped the importance of green space, Mrs. Burke was quietly working in the conservation trenches.
Thanks largely to her efforts over the years, Richmond now enjoys one of the nation’s finest urban parks, the James River Park system. And that’s just one of many conservation victories won by this foresighted and persistent gentlewoman.
For an inspiring tribute to what one person can do to make a difference for an entire community, read Louise Burke’s obituary in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Photo of Mrs. Burke by Richmond Times-Dispatch