Maryland’s Action Plan for Chesapeake Bay Restoration

Sandy Point State Park
Courtesy of the State of Maryland

In 2010, after decades of voluntary efforts to fully restore the Chesapeake Bay, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established pollution load limits to restrict three major pollutants fouling the Bay’s waters: nitrogen and phosphorus (nutrients) and sediment (soil). These loading limits, which set clear goals for reducing excess pollution, are science-based estimates of the amount of each substance the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries can receive and still meet standards for clean, healthy water. The goals, or pollution reduction targets, require the seven jurisdictions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed (Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, New York and the District of Columbia) to reduce their nutrient and sediment loadings to the Bay until these protective limits are met, within a specific time frame.

In response to the new pollution limits, also known as the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the seven Bay jurisdictions created individual Watershed Implementation Plans (WIPs), or restoration blueprints, that detail specific actions each would take to meet their pollution reduction goals by 2025. The blueprints guide local and state Bay restoration efforts through the next decade and beyond. The Bay jurisdictions also set two-year pollution reduction milestones to track and assess near-term progress towards completing their restoration actions; EPA regularly reviews each jurisdiction’s milestones and confirmed that Maryland achieved both the 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 milestones.

Gwynn's Falls Trail
Courtesy of the Maryland Department of the Environment

EPA requires that the six states and the District of Columbia each reach 60 percent of their 2025 restoration targets for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment pollution reduction by the year 2017. This progress is measured from the baseline established in the TMDL and compared to full blueprint implementation, which must be achieved by the year 2025. Our 2013 progress data indicates that Maryland has completed nearly 41 percent of its 2025 nitrogen target and 61 percent of its 2025 phosphorus target.

In June 2014, former Governor O’Malley and leadership from the other watershed jurisdictions signed a new Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement. In addition to reaffirming the commitments to restore the Bay’s waters by achieving the nutrient and sediment reduction targets, the new agreement addresses both climate change and toxic contamination as challenges whose solutions will ultimately increase the resiliency of the Bay and ensure that the Bay and its rivers are free from the effects of toxic substances on living resources and human health.

The EPA has initiated a “Midpoint Assessment” process in partnership with the Bay Watershed jurisdictions. The assessment will evaluate whether the conservation practices chosen by the jurisdictions are working, if the goals are attainable and if the modeling tools used for determining progress need to be refined to better reflect the results of actions on the ground. The outcome of this assessment in 2017 will provide the basis for a Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan, which will be submitted in 2018.

Kilgore Falls
Courtesy of the State of Maryland

Maryland has been and continues to be a leader in Bay restoration. The Chesapeake Bay, and the creeks, streams and rivers that lead to it are much more than just bodies of water. They are traditions like eating steamed crabs on a hot summer day, swimming in a local river or sailing near your favorite beach. Maryland has the most to gain from a successful Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. Clean water benefits our health, our economy and future generations of Marylanders.


Catoctin Mountain Pond
Courtesy of the State of Maryland

To determine whether sufficient progress is being made toward meeting the pollution limits as well as interim goals, EPA relies on each jurisdiction to monitor, verify and report their progress annually. An accountability framework exists to ensure the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and improve local water quality throughout the region. The framework is built on the development of the restoration blueprints by local jurisdictions and the development of two-year milestones to track, demonstrate and evaluate progress. Maryland recently submitted 2014-2015 milestone targets.

Outreach and Education Efforts

MDE is committed to educating our citizens understanding of what Maryland is doing to restore the Chesapeake Bay to its former glory. We are engaging our citizens to be a part of the solution for their health, the health of their local waterways and the future of the Bay. In partnership with other state agencies, local governments and nonprofit organizations, Maryland is working to deliver information on best practices and cost-effective solutions to residents, businesses and all levels of government. Our outreach includes larger ongoing efforts such as the Reclaim the Bay campaign and Scoop the Poop and more targeted outreach for businesses and local governments like the Clean Water Innovations Trade Show. Our website provides citizens with information and tools to show how all Marylanders can be involved in the Bay restoration effort.

Contact Info

Please direct questions or comments concerning this page to MDE's Office of Communications at 410-537-3003.