Video: Protecting the bay

updated 9/11/2009 5:13:54 PM ET 2009-09-11T21:13:54

Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts are likely to require greater regulation of the region's large-scale animal farms, according to federal officials.

Federal agencies issued draft reports Thursday that also recommended expanded regulation of municipal stormwater runoff and requirements that pollution increases be offset by reductions from other sources.

Details such as how many more animal feeding operations would be regulated remain to be decided, but "the message here is that there will be, there is, a commitment at EPA to increased enforcement and increased oversight of state programs," U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson said Thursday.

The reports will be used to develop a bay restoration strategy, scheduled for release Nov. 9, mandated earlier this year by an executive order from President Barack Obama.

The EPA said it was working with Chesapeake Bay states and the District of Columbia to establish limits for nitrogen, phosphorus and sediments. States would have to develop detailed plans to reduce levels of those pollutants from sources such as farms, highways and lawns. The EPA said it would step in if states did not take sufficient action.

While large operations such as industrial chicken farms would be regulated, the EPA said it also would expand regulation of municipal stormwater programs to include high-growth areas.

Jackson said the goal was to use federal leadership and "federal muscle when necessary."

Agriculture is responsible for about half the pollution entering the bay, but Jackson noted there is more turf grass in the bay watershed than corn acreage and the region is much different from when restoration efforts began decades ago.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said farms and forest lands also are part of the solution, adding that they anchor rural communities and provide important open space. He said he was concerned about lost agricultural and forest land, adding that one acre of parking lot produces 16 times more runoff than an acre of meadow.

USDA spokesman David Sandretti said that while the recommendations call for increased regulation, they also call for increases in the $638 million in incentives already in place to encourage voluntary conservation measures by farmers.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which sued the EPA this year over bay restoration efforts, said the EPA's agenda was ambitious but the recommendations for dealing with air pollutants entering the bay were inadequate.

However, Doug Siglin, federal affairs director for the foundation, said "if they can do what they say they are going to do, it could well be the dawn of a new day for the Chesapeake."

The bay's watershed is almost 65,000 square miles and includes parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, and Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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