State submits bay cleanup plan

Published 8:51 pm Monday, December 6, 2010

The state government last week submitted a cleanup plan for the Chesapeake Bay to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, remaining upbeat about the plan’s potential outcome while still expressing concern about unfunded federal mandates.

“Our plan charts out significant and far-reaching actions, and it offers realistic, balanced and cost-effective solutions to our water quality concerns,” said Doug Domenech, Virginia’s secretary of natural resources.

However, he added, “This plan contains a significant number of commitments from Virginia, but the burden should not fall only on state government and the numerous stakeholders affected by the plan. As Governor [Bob] McDonnell has said, Virginia has invested billions in Bay restoration and expects that the federal government will be a fair and full partner in this effort.”

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The plan met a deadline imposed by the EPA for submission of plans to clean up the bay. Failure to make and follow the plans could result in fines and other actions.

Key provisions of Virginia’s plan include nitrogen reduction in the James River basin from wastewater treatment plants, expansion of the existing nutrient credit exchange program and the use of emerging technology to achieve nutrient and sediment reductions.

The plan also sets forth high expectations for the adoption of resource conservation plans on agricultural operations that feature water quality best management practices and higher standards for limiting runoff from new development.

The secretary reiterated the state’s concerns about the cost of developing and implementing the plan.

“It is important to emphasize again that this plan is being developed during the worst economy in generations,” Domenech wrote. “Virginians have already invested billions of dollars in Chesapeake Bay water quality improvement to date. Full implementation of this plan will likely cost more than $7 billion new dollars, which would be another federal unfunded mandate on the state, localities, private industries and homeowners.”

However, as a show of good faith, McDonnell will include $36.4 million new dollars in the Water Quality Improvement Fund in his 2011 budget amendments.

“In these austere times, we cannot guarantee what additional funding will be provided by our General Assembly,” Domenech wrote. “It is our position that the success of the [plan] may be subject to the provision of sufficient federal funding to assist in covering these massive new unfunded mandates.”

The announcement of the plan’s submission came after the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission said complying with the regulations would cost area communities a total of about $1 billion, a number that includes $45 million in Suffolk.

For more information on the Chesapeake Bay regulations, visit