Public comment period open on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Draft Chesapeake Bay TMDL Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan
Feedback is due June 7 at www.vawipcomments.com
The Commonwealth of Virginia released the Draft Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) for meeting the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for public review and comment on April 5, 2019.
The draft plan is a compilation and synthesis of recommendations from Planning District Commissions (PDCs), Soil and Water Conservation Districts (SWCDs), and regulated permit holders across the watershed. Supported by DEQ funding, PDCs led their member localities in developing regional Phase III Watershed Implementation Plans in 2018 addressing non-regulated developed and natural land as well as septic systems. A concurrent effort was conducted by the local SWCDs to address non-regulated forest and agricultural land. Regulated permit holders include Wastewater Treatment Plants (WWTPs) and Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s).
The draft plan describes the actions and successes of Phase I and II Watershed Implementation Plans and implementation to meet 2017 interim goals (Chapter 2), the Phase III goals (Chapter 3), the methodology for addressing climate change (Chapter 4), the pollutant reduction goals (Chapter 5), the outreach conducted in 2018 (Chapter 6), the 50 recommended state initiatives (Chapter 7), details on the recommendations by river basin (Chapter 8), an estimate of costs and list of funding sources (Chapter 9), next steps (Chapter 10), actions for all citizens (Chapter 11), and additional details in the Appendices.
The draft plan summarizes PDC and SWCD outreach efforts (Tables 1 and 2) as well as recommended Best Management Practices (BMPs) and programmatic actions (Table 3) provided in regional plans. Based on the recommended BMPs and programmatic actions, the state developed a list of 50 recommended initiatives categorized as Multi-sector (9), Agriculture (23), Forestry (3), Developed Lands (10), and Wastewater (5).
The state summarized recommendations affecting PDCs:
Increase DEQ’s Stormwater Local Assistance Fund (SLAF).
Expand use of the Virginia Conservation Assistance Program (VCAP).
Increase funding for voluntary BMPs.
Conduct more urban nutrient management planning.
Enhance promotion of living shoreline techniques to address shoreline erosion.
Expand septic pump out and other maintenance programs statewide.
Improve coordination of local reporting of BMPs by DEQ.
To support many of these recommendations, DEQ is offering funding for capacity building at the PDC level to support localities in 2020 (as described on p.40 of the draft plan). Additional capacity will improve coordination, BMP tracking and reporting, outreach and education programs, and overall program administration.
The BMP types and quantities in the regional plans were developed using the Local Area Pollutant Goal (LAPG) reduction targets provided on July 17, 2018. DEQ updated the LAPG reduction targets to address projected growth based on the 2025 land use and the impact of climate change. This significantly increased local targets. As a result, DEQ significantly increased the local BMP quantities for the draft plan. In addition, the state decided to shift their approach and start addressing unregulated state owned land. This shift will require creative adjustments to the model inputs and is temporarily addressed by accounting for state owned land within each PDC as part of that PDC. This also increased the local BMP quantities. The regional plans reflected realistic numbers of BMPs that could be installed if incentive programs and funding from the state were provided. There has been insufficient time through this public comment period to accurately evaluate the impact of the increased pollutant loads on PDC capacity and funding needs or the feasibility of meeting the proposed values.
The draft plan states in Chapter 10 (p.140) “As much of the implementation called for in this Draft Phase III WIP is contingent on private property owners and businesses making decisions to install BMPs, the ultimate mix of practices installed may be different from those identified in this plan.” In addition, in the case of non-regulated localities, the recommendations in Chapters 7 and 8 are not commitments but a theoretical approach to meeting the planning targets. A majority of PDCs have requested that DEQ acknowledge the voluntary nature of the non-regulated BMPs and that the contracts between GWRC and DEQ are not an endorsement or commitment to the BMPs indicated in the plan.
We encourage you to review the draft plan and provide comments by June 7 at www.vawipcomments.com.