A bill before a General Assembly committee March 24 would delay county Watershed Implementation Plans until two conditions are met in 2017.What's the basis for their complaint that the science isn't right?
The bill, cross-filed by Sen. Steve Hershey, R-36-Upper Shore, and by Del. Jay Jacobs, R-36-Kent, prohibits the planning and implementation of statewide, Environmental Protection Agency-approved WIPs until the EPA’s 2017 Chesapeake Bay mid-point assessment of pollution reduction goals is completed and also until a two-year study on sediment levels and water quality in the Bay is completed.
“No one is saying that the WIP should not be executed, however this bill ensures that the effort will be based on proper science,” Hershey said.
Hershey, who along with Jacobs presented the bill to the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee March 24, said the proposal stems from a committee hearing earlier in the legislative session wherein the EPA’s Associate Director for Science, Analysis and Implementation Richard Batuik said the 2010 Bay model used old data from the 1990s and early 2000s.Now that is an interesting point, as well as an interesting gambit. Who doesn't want their regulations based on the best science? Until recently, it was taken as matter of fact that the impending filling of the pool behind Conowingo was the most serious problem the Bay faced. Then, once it actually happened, and they faced up to how intractable the problem was, both economically and logistically, suddenly, management science suspiciously said it wasn't that bad after all, and we really need to go after those damn farmers and their nutrients.
The Bay model was drafted when officials assumed the Conowingo Dam had a higher sediment trapping capacity, said Hershey at the hearing. A study of the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed has since disproved that, and suggests the Conowingo Dam — the last stop on the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania before its confluence with the Upper Bay — is at dynamic equilibrium with its sediment buildup and has no more trapping capacity left.
“Since the Chesapeake Bay model depended on old and inaccurate data, the model itself is then flawed. It is flawed and the state and the counties are in the process of executing the WIPs based on flawed modeling,” Hershey said. “The EPA indicates that it will include more recent data in its development of the midpoint assessment. Counties have exceptionally hefty price tags on implementing the WIP.”