Published on December 30, 2007
The Chesapeake Bay and the critical area: The Chesapeake Bay and the critical area Mary Beth Marston The Chesapeake Bay: The Chesapeake Bay Largest, most productive estuary in the United States The watershed covers almost 64,000 square miles and is home to over 13 million people. Its ecosystem provides habitat for at least 2700 species of plants and animals Commercial center of a large transportation system to central and western United States. Maryland’s most important natural resource Chesapeake Bay Health: Chesapeake Bay Health Over the past decades the health of the once prosperous Bay has declined, and is dangerously close to a point of no return Chesapeake Bay Foundation issued the Bay a grade of D in the 2005 report card on the health Nitrogen and Phosphorus are the two major pollutants that enter the Bay They form algae blooms Create Dead Zones Health continued ..: Health continued .. Water Clarity in the Bay is very poor Toxic chemicals that enter the Bay are very unhealthy for not only aquatic life but the people that live in the watershed Primary Sources of pollution are: Agricultural runoff Urban/Suburban runoff Storm water runoff Sewage Treatment Facilities Land use Population Growth Importance of Land Use and population growth: Importance of Land Use and population growth The EPA recognized land use and population growth as the two major factors in the declining health It has been estimated that between 1970 and 1980, developed acreage in Maryland grew more than twice as fast as the population In a period of only thirty years, from 1950 to 1980, the population of the Chesapeake Bay basin grew by 50% to nearly 12.5 million people. By 2020, that number will rise to over 16 million. Both water quality and wildlife habitat can be seriously degraded by the impact of intensified development. Mostly created by non-point source pollution Not generally corrected by "end-of-the-pipe" treatment but by changes in land management practices. What is the Critical Area Act?: What is the Critical Area Act? In 1984, Maryland General Assembly enacted The Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Protection Program Effort to control future land use development in the Chesapeake's watershed All land within 1000 feet of the tidal influence of the Bay was determined to be crucial because development in this "critical area" has direct and immediate effects on the health of the Bay. Minimize the adverse effects of human activities on water quality and natural habitats and would foster consistent, uniform and more sensitive development activity within the Critical Area. Land within the Critical Area:Intensely Developed Areas (IDA’s): Land within the Critical Area: Intensely Developed Areas (IDA’s) Areas of twenty of more adjacent acres where residential, commercial, institutional or industrial land uses predominate. IDAs are areas of concentrated development where little natural habitat occurs. In IDAs, the Law requires that new development and redevelopment be accompanied by techniques to reduce water quality impacts associated with storm water runoff (often called Best Management Practices). These techniques must be capable of reducing pollutant loads generated from a developed site to a level at least 10% below the load generated at the same site prior to development. Development activities minimize destruction of forest and woodland vegetation and secure Habitat Protection Areas. Land within the Critical Area:Limited Development Areas: Land within the Critical Area: Limited Development Areas Areas in which development is of a low or moderate intensity. LDAs contain areas of natural plant and animal habitats but are not dominated by agriculture, wetland, forest, barren land, surface water or open space. The quality of runoff from these areas has not been substantially altered or impaired. The Criteria stipulate that developers replace cleared forest cover in ratios ranging from 1:1 to 3:1. When it is impossible to replace forest cover at these rates, local jurisdictions collect fees-in-lieu that are used to reforest other areas in the Critical Area or other locations beneficial to the Critical Area. In areas of new development or redevelopment, where no forest coverage existed previously, 15% of the area must be planted with trees. Land within Critical Area:Resource Conservation Areas: Land within Critical Area: Resource Conservation Areas Characterized by natural environments or by resource-utilization activities The Criteria limit new development in RCAs to one dwelling unit per 20 acres because studies indicated that when large amounts of resource-utilization land have been converted to residential development, it is usually in parcels of 2-, 5- and 10-acre lots. New commercial and industrial facilities are not allowed in RCAs and that development which is allowed in the RCAs must conform to the standards set for LDAs. Preserving Natural Resources: Preserving Natural Resources 100 foot buffer No disturbance of the Buffer may be permitted by local jurisdictions unless an applicant can meet the strict provisions for a variance. Non tidal wetlands 25 foot vegetated buffer around non tidal wetlands New development must not change or damage character of wetland only new development that is intrinsically water-dependent, or of substantial economic benefit to the public, is allowed to disturb non tidal wetlands Preserving Natural Resources cont.: Preserving Natural Resources cont. Threatened and endangered species suggest a variety of measures and approaches for the protection of these threatened and endangered species, including designation of areas of nondisturbance around essential habitat, establishment of conservation easements, and land acquisition. Significant plant and wildlife habitat Protection of fish and wildlife habitat that are of significance because of rarity. Fish spawning areas Streams where rockfish, yellow perch, white perch, shad, or river herring spawn, or where such spawning once occurred. Violations of Critical Area: Violations of Critical Area Implemented at local level in county or town Most Critical Area jurisdictions prefer to work with property owners to secure compliance with the law either through the permitting process or through management plans that may include mitigation and restoration Failing this, some planning and zoning offices issue stop work orders and levy fines of $500 or more per day per violation. Typical Violations: Typical Violations Clearing trees/vegetation in 100 foot buffer zone Constructing pools, and sheds in buffer zone Clearing or cutting trees anywhere within the critical area Building without a permit Filling wetlands Building piers without permits Clearing marsh vegetation Where are we going wrong?: Where are we going wrong? Enforcement Are the right penalties in place? Developmental Impact fees Are the local governments even monitoring/enforcing violations Are people more interested in waterfront property than having a clean Bay? Are too many governments/jurisdictions involved?