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Livestock producers who do not follow specific management guidelines will be subject to enforcement actions and penalties. Douglas Beegle, Penn State agronomist specializing in nutrient management, says livestock producers in the area are being encouraged to have nutrient management plans and follow best management practices, such as the use of no-till methods and planting cover crops. “Most of what is called for in our TMDL is based on good management recommendations, and we will continue to make some progress, but we won’t solve the bigger problem unless we figure out a sustainable way for our farmers to deal with excess nutrients in the watershed,” he explains.
Beegle says Pennsylvania’s livestock producers had been making steady progress while working to reduce the amount of nutrients going into the Chesapeake Bay, but the question of how to deal with excess manure nutrients is a difficult challenge for the state’s producers.
“We import feed, mostly from the Midwest. Because there are not as many crops grown here, the manure nutrients tend to accumulate on the farms and don’t go back into crop production. This is driven by global economic forces and there is no good, simple, economic answer to this challenge. We either have to find alternative uses for the excess nutrients and get the manure off the land and back to someplace else, change the structure of the production systems so that excesses are not created in the first place, or figure out some other sustainable way to deal with the imbalances in the system.”
TMDL requirements call for a 25% reduction in nitrogen, 24% reduction in phosphorus and 20% reduction in sediment in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The TMDL, which sets Chesapeake Bay watershed limits of 185.9 million lbs. of nitrogen, 12.5 million lbs. of phosphorus and 6.45 billion lbs. of sediment per year, is designed to ensure that all pollution control measures intended to fully restore the bay and its tidal rivers are in place by 2025.
The Clean Water Act (CWA) sets an overarching environmental goal that all waters in the United States be “fishable” and “swimmable.” The CWA requires jurisdictions to develop an EPA-approved list of waterways that are impaired by pollutants and consequently do not meet water-quality standards. A TMDL plan is required for those waterways identified on the impaired list.
Most of the Chesapeake Bay and its tidal waters are listed as impaired because of excess nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, leading to algae blooms that can prove harmful to aquatic life. President Obama issued an executive order in May 2009 directing the federal government to lead a renewed effort to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. According to the EPA, the Chesapeake Bay TMDL plan is a key commitment in the strategy developed by federal agencies to meet the President’s executive order.