Chesapeake Bay Gets Its Annual “Fiscal” Checkup

A far-reaching legislative analysis reviews both fiscal and policy issues related to the Chesapeake Bay

Each year, among its many agency-by-agency budget analyses, the Department of Legislative Services has presented a review of the Chesapeake Bay. Bay programs stretch across multiple agencies, as well as local governments, and the report is a tidy spot for deep information on the status of Bay programs – both monetary- and results-oriented. The federally-mandated Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for certain pollutants has been a major policy driver since its inception in 2010.

Some highlights from the FY 2020 report include:

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Progress Under TMDL Regime:

2017 Midpoint Assessment: The 2017 midpoint assessment found that the bay jurisdictions
exceeded the 2017 pollution reduction goals for phosphorus and sediment but did not achieve
the reduction goal for nitrogen. In order to achieve the necessary nitrogen reductions by
calendar 2025, the bay jurisdictions must reduce an additional 48.4 million pounds of nitrogen,
resulting in the need to reduce more than twice as much nitrogen in the next eight years in
comparison to the nitrogen reductions achieved during the previous eight years.

Maryland’s Progress: The State achieved its 2017 pollution reduction goals for phosphorus
and sediment but did not achieve the pollution reduction goal for nitrogen; the State achieved
its 2017 reduction goals for all pollutants in all major basins except for nitrogen in the
Eastern Shore and the Western Shore and for phosphorus in the Western Shore. In order to meet
the statewide pollution reduction goal for nitrogen, the State must further reduce nitrogen
loading to the bay by an additional 8.4 million pounds.

Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund

Overall Chesapeake Bay Restoration Funding: Major changes in Chesapeake Bay
restoration funding (between fiscal 2019 and 2020) include a decrease of $179.0 million for the
Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund, primarily because of a $150.0 reduction in revenue bond
authorization. This reduction is offset partially by funding increases of $24.2 million for
State Highway Administration TMDL activities and $22.6 million for the Maryland Transit
Administration’s Purple Line transit project.

Conowingo Dam Options

Conowingo Dam Relicensing and Request for Proposals (RFP): The Maryland Department
of the Environment (MDE) issued the water quality certification for the Conowingo Dam with
special conditions on April 27, 2018, which requires Exelon to annually reduce 6.0 million
pounds of nitrogen and 260,000 pounds of phosphorus. The reductions can be accomplished by
Exelon in one of three ways: installing BMPs and/or ecosystem restoration actions; paying
MDE $17 per pound of nitrogen and $270 per pound of phosphorus, which would total
$172 million per year; or dredging the reservoir behind the Conowingo Dam. Exelon is
appealing the decision. In the meantime, the Maryland Environmental Service has issued
another RFP related to the Conowingo Dam’s sediment: a 25,000-cubic-yard sediment
beneficial reuse and sediment characterization study.

Stormwater Challenges

Stormwater Challenges: The three jurisdictions proposing to use nutrient trading to meet their
stormwater permits – Anne Arundel, Baltimore, and Prince George’s counties – all indicate that
the capital and operational funds are available to meet the 20% impervious surface restoration
requirement but that the physical capacity for implementing structural BMPs within the permit
timeframe is a limiting factor. The physical capacity limitations include the following: hiring
and training additional staff and new equipment procurement; obtaining contracts from and
competition for consulting, engineering, and construction firms; lengthy individual project
permit reviews and approvals; and delayed Chesapeake Bay Program approval of innovative
BMPs for restoration. A scalable statewide solution may be what is required for meeting
stormwater management remediation challenges

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties