Bay Journal Reports on County TMDL Funding Concerns

The Chesapeake Bay Journal is reporting on  county concerns about Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) funding in its April 2010 edition.  With the imposition of accountability, performance deadlines, and penalties by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), counties throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed are concerned about how their TMDL efforts will be funded.  Legislation is pending at the federal level that may provide grant funding (S. 1816/H.R. 3852) but its passage is not guaranteed.

Past cleanup plans have never required that level of detail or local involvement. But EPA officials say their demand for local-level nutrient allocations reflects the reality that many of the decisions that affect nutrient pollution are made at the local level: planning and zoning actions; stormwater management; erosion and sediment control programs; septic system regulations; even ordinances regulating lawn fertilizer and cleaning up pet waste.

“Without these local activities, we are not going to achieve clean water,” said Katherine Antos, of the EPA’s Bay Program Office. …

But across the watershed, local governments’ overriding concern is whether additional money will come with the expected additional responsibilities. “The assumption is that it’s going to be the local government,” [York County, Pennsylvania, “circuit rider” Jake] Romig said. “The reality is, who is going to pay for it? We can’t afford to plow the snow.”

All of the states in the watershed are slashing assistance to local governments to balance their own budgets. Local governments are left with increased burdens, less state funding, and often a declining tax base as property values fall.

“The resource problems that local governments are experiencing right now are extremely serious,” said Larry Land, director of policy development with the Virginia Association of Counties. “They are the most serious that I have ever seen, and I’ve worked here for 22 years.”

Budget items, such as police, fire and public health, typically get priority, leaving programs such as planning vulnerable to cuts. And in today’s budget climate, local governments are particularly loath to discourage growth.

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