Counties Chart the Next Course for Saving the Bay at #MACoCon

On Thursday, August 16 at 1 pm, many MACo Summer Conference attendees got updated on the future of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and what it means for county governments at the session, Charting the Next Course for the Bay TMDL.

The journey of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is entering its third and final phase for reaching water pollution reduction goals for nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment by 2025. With a new Bay Model and new Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs) come revised state loads and incorporation of issues, such as accounting for growth, climate change, and the Conowingo Dam. Panelists discussed the current and future path of the Bay TMDL and how it will affect both Maryland and its counties.

D. Lee Currey, Water and Science Administration Director, Maryland Department of the Environment provided an excellent, detailed overview on how the state is implementing federal requirements while also partnering with local governments to accommodate rapidly changing technology.

Charles MacLeod, Attorney, MacLeod Law Group, LLC and Representative, Clean Chesapeake Coalition provided a very informative perspective on the roles played by various entities in cleaning the Bay. While instructive, the TMDL, created and enforced by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has been acknowledged by the court system as an informational document, rather than binding law. EPA can withhold its federal funding from the State and others if there is poor or no compliance, but the agency can do little else to enforce its TMDL. Meanwhile, Exelon, in pushing back on requirements by the State, argues that Maryland cannot require more than the TMDL requires. Finally, many counties are in a unique position in having to strike a balance between accommodating new innovation in stormwater management and sanitary system practices, and meeting state and federal requirements – and, fortunately, the state and EPA have become more receptive to those concerns than they may have been in previous iterations.

Kimberly Grove, Office of Compliance and Laboratories Chief, Baltimore City, focused on her work trying to make a unique jurisdiction compliant with more wastewater treatment plants than most, and less available land for stormwater management facility installation than any other jurisdiction. She echoed MacLeod’s appreciation that local governments were invited to the table sooner rather than later to weigh in on possible solutions – and stressed that the City certainly took advantage of that opportunity. She also emphasized that, as local governments enter Phase 3 of the TMDL, they will still be hard at work maintaining infrastructure and processes developed to meet Phase 2 – a challenge which should not go unnoticed.

The session was moderated by the Honorable Charles Otto of the Maryland House of Delegates.