CAMBRIDGE — The Dorchester County Council’s decision to seek coordination with state agencies on regulations is being questioned by representatives of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
“We disagree with that approach,” CBF Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard said during the Jan. 26 annual meeting of Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth.
Girard also said the costs of federally required watershed improvement efforts have been overestimated. Dorchester has an $87 million cost estimate for making improvements in Dorchester by 2020.
Girard said Calvert County, which had a Watershed Implementation Plan cost estimate of $1.3 billion through 2020, recently has reduced that estimate following a study by the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, which found Calvert’s cost to implement WIP would be about $5.6 million instead.
Instead of encouraging Maryland counties to contribute $25,000 each to be part of its Clean Chesapeake Coalition, Girard said Dorchester County should take the money for those attorney fees and use it for a waterway improvement project.
Girard said CBF attorneys considered Dorchester’s demand for coordination and “feel it is not grounded in law.”
Citing public hearings held on regulations by the various state agencies being petitioned, including departments of natural resources, environment and agriculture, Girard said, “There has been extensive coordination ... Tons of coordination has already been happening.”
Coordination is a stipulation of the National Environmental Policy Act, which is enforced by the federal Council on Environmental Quality. If agencies fail to work with local government and consider the impacts regulations create for humans, suit will be filed in federal court seeking to force coordination.
Coordination has been used more than 100 times in western states to bring federal policy in line with local policy, according to Idaho attorney Fred Grant, who recently spoke about the coordination process with the Dorchester County Council and other members of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition. The coalition, created more than a year ago, now includes Allegany, Carroll, Caroline, Cecil, Frederick, Kent and Wicomico counties.
“NEPA provides that human interests must be considered in making a balanced decision as to the advisability of development of a plan, policy, rule or regulation or management action so that action is taken only after coordination in order to assure that the action results in ‘conditions under which man and nature can exist in productive harmony and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans,’” the act reads, according to the county’s resolution seeking coordination.
The resolution further explains that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, Maryland Department of Agriculture and Maryland Department of the Environment are required to engage in coordination with Dorchester County “regarding projects requiring compliance with NEPA” and stating that coordination is required because these agencies are funded at least partially with federal dollars.
Among the situations for which Dorchester County is seeking coordination is the Watershed Improvement Plan all counties in the Chesapeake Bay watershed were required to create in settlement of a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for which the EPA established a Total Maximum Daily Load of phosphorus for both farmers and homeowners using septic tanks.
A phosphorus management tool or formula has been suggested twice concerning Maryland poultry farmers with approval delayed as the formula was found to be faulty. Sen. Richard Colburn, R-37-Mid-Shore, has said the current session of the General Assembly will include approval of a phosphorus management tool.
Girard said a phosphorus management tool is needed to determine phosphorus levels in soil, which could prevent the use of poultry manure on fields throughout the Chesapeake watershed. He predicted, “a major change in farming” and “a lot of infrastructure change.”
In seeking coordination, Dorchester County invoked the federal Data Quality Act for information used to establish the TMDL and create a state Watershed Implementation Plan.
Dorchester County argues that sediment from the Conowingo Dam plays a major role in phosphorus pollution of Chesapeake Bay and suggests dredging the Conowingo Pond and continued maintenance would take a large step toward correcting the problem, reducing Maryland counties’ responsibility for additional phosphorus removal.