West Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Phase III Watershed Improvement Plan open for public comment

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Bay Sailboat

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – The West Virginia Chesapeake Bay Program’s Phase III Watershed Improvement Plan (WIP) is now open for a 60-day public comment period. West Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay Tributary Team encourages local governments, watershed associations, landowners, and concerned citizens to review the draft plan and provide feedback.

West Virginia’s partnership with the U.S. EPA Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP) began in 2002 and has led to a significant investment of more than $16 million of federal funds that supports a variety of projects contributing to improved local water quality. Recent successes include starting watershed associations, planting trees and rain gardens, helping farmers install best management practices, and fixing stream bank erosion and stormwater problems.

In August of 2019, West Virginia will enter the third phase of implementation and send its WIP to EPA for approval. This plan details the strategies and commitments West Virginia will put in place to achieve proposed sediment and nutrient pollution reduction targets.

Since 2012, West Virginia’s CBP cleanup efforts have been guided by the Phase II WIP. In 2017, the EPA conducted a “mid-point assessment” and updated the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model, a computer simulation showing where pollution comes from and where it can be reduced for all seven Bay jurisdictions, including Washington D.C., Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

The “Bay Model” was substantially improved to better represent pollution loads, along with needed reductions.

The leaders of the WV Chesapeake Bay Program include the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Division of Forestry, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, and conservation districts and non-profits, and are known, collectively, as the WV Tributary Team because they work on the tributaries to the Potomac that lead to the Chesapeake Bay.

The “Trib Team” welcomes input from all stakeholder groups to help define what work can be done to improve local stream health by 2025.

WIP III highlights include:

• All existing significant wastewater treatment facilities in West Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay watershed have upgraded their treatment levels so no additional upgrades of significant facilities are necessary. WV is continuing the policy that new or expanded wastewater loads must be offset.

• The importance of post-construction stormwater runoff ordinances to reduce pollution from impervious areas and help reduce flooding, especially in Berkeley and Jefferson counties where growth and development flourish.

• Participation in the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program, and other voluntary agriculture cost-share programs that keep livestock out of streams and increase forest buffers along streams. This improves cattle health and ensures streams are clean enough for recreation and drinking water needs.

• Natural stream restoration projects that stabilize stream banks, reduce erosion, and soften the impact of flooding. Stream restoration, in addition to reducing pollution, achieves many “co-benefits” such as lower drinking water treatment costs, less property damage from stream banks collapsing, better recreation possibilities, and improved wildlife habitat for brook trout and other fish, water fowl, beavers, otters, and more.

The draft WIP III will be posted at http://www.wvchesapeakebay.us/ on April 12. A public comment period will run from April 12 through 5 p.m. on June 10. During that period, the partnership will accept written comments. At the conclusion of this comment period, the Trib Team will also receive comments from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Written comments may be e-mailed to alana.c.hartman@wv.gov or submitted to the following address:

Alana Hartman
WV Department of Environmental Protection
22288 Northwestern Pike
Romney, WV  26757