Today Maryland agencies submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency revised plans to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The plan is publicly available and is part of the bay-wide "pollution diet," a collaborative effort between federal and state partners aimed at restoring the bay and its source waters. After an initial review of the plan, Environment Maryland Policy Advocate Tommy Landers issued this statement:
"The true measure of this plan's effectiveness will be in its implementation, but this revision still holds promise for a clean, healthy Chesapeake Bay. The O’Malley administration deserves particular credit for the following two proposals in this plan.
"The first is the proposal to revise the so-called 'P-Index,' a flawed test that too often advises farmers to apply manure to their land. After years of over-application of manure, some of Maryland's soils have become oversaturated with phosphorus, one of the nutrients responsible for the bay's annual dead zones. The bay would benefit the most from replacing, not simply revising, the P-Index with a simple test based on nutrient saturation in the soil, as recommended recently by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Today's plan moves in the right direction, though, by proposing to revise the P-Index to incorporate the soil saturation levels.
"The second is the proposal to make cover crops, which are now voluntary, a requirement. Cover crops like wheat or rye are planted in the fall, after the summer harvest, to soak up any excess nutrients in the land. Cover crops have proven their effectiveness in reducing pollution. The mandatory cover crops proposal is only a 'contingency,' however, to be adopted if the existing voluntary scheme falls short. The state should clarify the conditions for adopting required cover crops and allow the voluntary regimen a limited time to meet those conditions. Environment Maryland supports making cover crops mandatory for priority acres within the next year, since the voluntary method has clearly been inadequate over the last 26 years.
"We look forward to working with Gov. O'Malley and his team to ensure successful implementation of this plan and especially these two proposals."