Potomac Highlands Watershed School

WV Potomac Tributary Strategy:


Excerpted with Permission from the WVPTS Final Version – August 2005


The Chesapeake Bay is a national and local treasure, and an important source of livelihood, recreation and cultural heritage for the region.  However, after receiving pollution from the surrounding landscape for many years, the Bay is in trouble.  The states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed - Delaware, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia - the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have come together to find solutions to the Bay’s problems. They have determined that the key to restoring the Bay’s health entails reducing the flow of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment flowing from the Bay States into the Bay, and have set maximum amounts for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, known as Cap Load Allocations (CLAs), for each of the jurisdictions.


Bay Program Partners have agreed to develop and carry out cooperative Tributary Strategies  to reduce current pollutant loads to the CLA levels by the year 2010, an approach that allows innovation and flexibility.  If this effort is not successful, the US Environmental Protection Agency will begin developing a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay , a process that will place significant additional restrictions on pollution sources in all the Bay States, including headwaters states like West Virginia.  A TMDL develops a pollution budget for a watershed that allocates the amount each pollutant source is allowed to release while still attaining water quality standards.


Load reductions of 33% for nitrogen, 35% for phosphorus, and 6% for sediment will be required of West Virginia between 2002 and 2010.  The development of a West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy provided the framework for a comprehensive planning process to equitably reduce these nutrient and sediment loads.  In order to engage the community in this process, the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection, West Virginia Conservation Agency, and West Virginia Department of Agriculture formed the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy Stakeholder Group.  This document presents a strategy that seeks to reduce nutrient and sediment loads while minimizing economic and social burdens. 


Key Elements of the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy


Chapters 2, 3 and 4 provide background information on West Virginia, water quality concepts and West Virginia monitoring programs, and on sources of nutrients and sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. 


The Chesapeake Bay Program uses mathematical models to simulate changes in the Bay ecosystem due to changes in population, land use, or pollution management. Chapter 5 describes the model of particular importance to the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy – the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Model (CBWM).   This model estimates that each of the Bay jurisdictions faces different challenges in reducing its nutrient and sediment loads—agriculture was identified as contributing the largest nitrogen (48%), phosphorus (60%), and sediment (70%) loads in West Virginia. The CBWM estimates that, between 1985 and 2002, West Virginia nitrogen loads dropped 5%, phosphorus increased about 1%, and sediment decreased 17%.  During the same period, the agricultural sector reduced nitrogen (14%) and phosphorus (6%) loads due to farmers’ aggressive implementation of agricultural Best Management Practices.  Use of modeled load estimates was very controversial to some WV stakeholders, and a number of them reject the use of these estimates in the West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy process.  The West Virginia Department of Agriculture is now collecting WV Potomac data for the Chesapeake Bay Program’s nontidal water-quality network, data that will be used to improve and calibrate Chesapeake Bay Program watershed models.


Chapter 6 “Implementation Strategies"

The West Virginia Potomac Tributary Strategy stakeholder group attempted to designate subcommittees to develop Implementation Strategies for the point source, urban and mixed open, agriculture, and forestry sectors.  Implicit in each sector’s Plan and the overall Plan for WV, is that the activities required to meet the Cap Loads will not occur if funding is not secured.


The Urban and Mixed Open Strategy covers all urban, residential, and rural areas that are not managed agricultural or forested lands.  The key features of the urban strategy are stormwater management, management of septic systems, reduction of nutrient inputs to land and water, preservation and restoration of natural vegetation, education, and technical assistance.


The Point Source Strategy includes recommendations to begin the process of characterizing the nutrient loadings from point sources, applying annual loading limits to both domestic wastewater and industrial point sources for nitrogen and phosphorus, seeking funding to help municipalities and public service districts (PSDs) absorb the costs of additional treatment, and considering participating in in-state and/or cross-border trading scenarios.


The Agricultural Strategy asks the WV agricultural  community to continue implementation of a variety of best management practices (BMP’s) that reduce nutrients and sediment.  WV will continue to encourage and support the installation of BMP’s, account for all previously installed BMP’s, promote increased educational opportunities for development and implementation of agriculture nutrient management plans, explore alternative uses of poultry litter, and research new and innovative BMP’s. 


The Forestry Strategy recognizes that proper management and use of forested lands will play an essential role in protecting WV waters and the Chesapeake Bay.  Logging operations are currently required by law to implement best management practices that protect water quality.  In addition, the WV Division of Forestry is mandated by law to enforce State Code that relates to wildfires.  The Forestry Strategy envisions hiring additional staff to better enforce existing laws to prevent excess erosion from logging, wildfires and the practices of private landowners.


Some West Virginia stakeholders have expressed concerns over the potential for nutrient and sediment loads generated by overabundant wildlife populations.  The WV Department of Natural Resources developed a Wildlife Strategy that will increase control of white-tailed deer and Canada goose populations by promoting hunting, facilitating harvest through increased access to private lands, adjusting harvest objectives (for white-tailed deer), increasing utilization of available Canada goose nuisance damage control program, and creating/promoting forested riparian buffers that reduce nesting habitat for geese.


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 – chiefly the political jurisdictions, the urban/suburban homeowner, and agriculture.  The estimated overall cost for West Virginia to achieve the Cap Load Allocations by 2010 is $873,546,759.