Potomac Highlands Watershed School

WV Potomac Tributary Strategy:

Chapter 7. CHALLENGES TO IMPLEMENTATION

Excerpted with Permission from the WVPTS Final Version – August 2005

The actions that will be required to achieve the Cap Load Allocations for the Chesapeake Bay will have both financial and operational impacts on key sectors of the WV Potomac community - chief among these are agriculture, industry, and the political jurisdictions.  The West Virginia Tributary Strategy Stakeholder Group was convened to provide these communities, and others, with a seat at the table in deciding how to proceed and the opportunity to express their concerns about the process and changes that might be required.

Urban and Mixed Open

Reducing the loads from current urban and mixed open levels to meet the Cap Load Allocations will be a significant challenge on it’s own.   Maintaining load caps in the face of certain growth will require concerted and genuine commitment to the strategy thus, regional planning and oversight is of paramount importance.  This strategy relies heavily on implementation and enforcement of NPDES Phase II Stormwater Regulations and counties, municipalities, and State agencies will most likely need increased capacity to carry out these requirements.  Nutrient management for lawns and other managed grasslands will require a major paradigm shift in the way many of our lands are regarded and its successful implementation will be a major educational challenge.  Outside of stormwater management implemented under the requirements of current stormwater regulations, significant funding for strategy implementation in the form of BMP installation, capacity-building and educational programs, and planning will need to be provided in the form of grants.

Point Sources

The budget for the State of West Virginia is extremely tight.  There is little, if any hope for grant funding provided solely by the State.  Federal grants must be available to West Virginia in order to meet the load goals outlined. 

West Virginia currently has no water quality criteria for total nitrogen and phosphorus from point sources.  A committee has been assigned to recommend nutrient criteria and has projected a completion date of 2009.  Until that time, and/or until the monitoring is implemented and accurate information is generated on discharges, WVDEP will pursue the strategy as outlined in Chapter 6 to address nutrient reductions.

Point Sources are permitted in West Virginia to provide for designated uses of local waters.  West Virginia’s distance from the Bay and lack of perceived benefits from the Bay cleanup make it a challenge to educate the affected regulated community on the need for these reductions and associated technology upgrades.

Agriculture

As noted in the introduction, West Virginia has been actively involved in pollution reduction programs for more than twenty years.  Many of the region’s farmers have participated in these voluntary programs, clear evidence of a grassroots movement to reduce the flow of agricultural pollutants into our waterways, including the nutrients and sediment that then flow downstream to the Chesapeake Bay. 

A well recognized problem is that the tributary strategy process was set up on such a tight timeline that the final product may not be as desirable as some would like. The West Virginia Agricultural Subcommittee offers the following comments/concerns regarding the Tributary Strategy development process:

· The loads that the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model indicates as coming from West Virginia may be incorrect. The farming community questions the assumption that the water quality in the Potomac Headwaters Region is poor. The agriculture community believes that actual numbers generated by the Chesapeake Bay model are inaccurate and unsubstantiated. The agriculture stakeholders believe that these numbers do not have validity or relationship to the actual nutrient and sediment contribution being made by agriculture in West Virginia. The WVDA has an aggressive sampling program in the area and is working to document actual water quality and capture load information on nutrients and sediment.  This data will be used to check the modeled output and the associated Cap Loads should be modified if necessary. 

· Undue scrutiny has been placed upon the agricultural sector to reduce nutrients and sediment to the Chesapeake Bay. Much effort and investment by the landowner and the government has been directed at agriculture over the past decade and much has been accomplished. It is the opinion of the farming community that the nutrient reductions have not been fairly proportioned with other sources of nutrients and sediment to the Chesapeake Bay. 

· The farming community believes that BMP’s which farmers have been encouraged to install have not been given adequate efficiencies in the Chesapeake Bay Model.  These practices are now considered to be less efficient than at the time of installation. These reduced efficiencies, now require additional BMP installation, and there is concern about the efficiencies not adequately reflecting the true BMP values.

· West Virginia is not receiving any credit for past installation of non-cost-share BMP’s.  Many local farmers opt out of government cost share programs due to the competitiveness of the cost share dollars and have installed land management practices without the benefit of government assistance.  West Virginia has no system in place to track these BMP’s due to lack of record keeping.

· The expense of installing additional practices should come with stronger incentives.  Currently, landowner match is required for installation of additional BMP’s, therefore reducing farm profitability and increasing tax burdens on some producers.  Unlike private industry or municipal treatment plants, the farming community does not have the luxury of raising the price of the commodities produced to recover the costs of additional BMP’s.  It is the desire of the agriculture subcommittee to seek grant based funds for additional BMP installation as well as supplementary funds to cover maintenance and taxes.

· Everyone should help clean up the Chesapeake Bay but not at the cost of farm families being forced out of business.  The nation’s food supply relies upon the sustainability of the family farm, installation of practices and the removal of prime farmland is expensive and affects the farmers’ bottom line.  The group feels that money should be spent on waterways that are firmly documented as impaired, rather than streams that exhibit minimal nutrient loads.

Wildlife Agencies

Several of the Potomac Tributary Stakeholders have voiced the concern that wildlife is contributing significant source of pollution in the Potomac watershed.   The Division of Natural Resources, Wildlife Resources Section (WRS) does not consider white-tailed deer, Canada geese or any other free-roaming wildlife to be a source of pollution in West Virginia.   Additionally, we are unaware of any other state, college or institution that has scientifically identified free-roaming wildlife as being significant contributors to water quality problems.

In most water quality discussions, wildlife contributions to nutrient loading are considered part of the normal background level.   Wildlife are given this consideration because they are part of the natural system, have no alternative on selecting places to live and generally do not concentrate for long periods of time.   

The WRS is tasked with managing the State’s fish and wildlife resources for the benefit of its’ citizenry.  Liberal hunting seasons and bag limits have been established that allow most landowners to manage wildlife populations on their property(s) to remain within the carrying capacity of the land.   Utilizing these liberal seasons and bag limits is the responsibility of the individual landowner.  While the State can control harvest rates it cannot dictate hunter access.  That is the landowner’s responsibility.   

The Best Management Practices (BMP’s) developed for these species utilize harvest management objectives that have existed for many years.  Directing landowner efforts toward meeting these objectives will benefit both the resource and the landowner. The WRS will continue to provide technical assistance to landowners; however, the landowner must be willing to provide the necessary access to their lands to effectively manage that population.

Managing Canada geese is a complex issue.  They are migratory birds covered by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  This act places ultimate regulatory authority with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS).  There are four distinct populations of Canada geese utilizing the Mid-Atlantic area of the United States at various times of the year and care must be taken to insure that management actions directed at one population do not adversely impact the other populations.  Canada geese nesting in West Virginia’s eastern panhandle are regularly observed and harvested in neighboring states which demonstrates the need for a regional approach to management. The various states, through the Atlantic Flyway Council, work with the FWS to address harvest, management and regulatory issues.

Current hunting regulations are liberal and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services (WS) has broad authority (and a variety of techniques) to address nuisance animals and damage complaints.  Both hunting opportunity and WS assistance are underutilized.  Goose hunting should be promoted to the general public, landowners, and nonresident hunters.  Landowners in neighboring states have supplemented their incomes by providing goose hunting opportunities.  Similar to deer management, access to private agricultural land is critical.  Geese are very mobile and will move to escape hunting pressure, so hunters must have access over a broad area. The agricultural community must work cooperatively to address the access issue.  Local governing bodies and/or landowners should fully utilize WS programs to address concentrations of geese in non-huntable areas and during periods when hunting is not allowed.