Commonwealth Signs Pact with Cape Cod Commission to Develop Water Quality Management Plan
BOSTON - The Patrick-Murray Administration, State Treasurer Steven Grossman's Office and the Cape Cod Commission today signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will initiate the development of a comprehensive water quality management plan for Cape Cod and provide $3.35 million to accomplish the plan. Under the MOU, a draft plan will be submitted for public review within a year, and a final plan thereafter.
The Cape Cod Commission is the regional agency charged with developing the water quality plan which, when implemented, will reduce nutrient pollution of Cape waterways to meet state and federal water quality standards. The $3.35 million to fund the management plan was approved in January by the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust, which is jointly administered by the Treasurer's Office, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Office of Administration and Finance.
"Addressing the Cape's wastewater crisis is a crucial challenge we must face for the sake of our economy, as well as our environment," said Governor Deval Patrick. "The Commonwealth stands ready to be a strong partner in that effort."
"The signing of this MOU is a significant step towards eliminating an environmental threat. It demonstrates our ongoing commitment to the economic well-being of those who live on the Cape," said State Treasurer Steven Grossman. "As a homeowner on Cape Cod for the last 30 years, I know first-hand how dealing decisively with this crisis will benefit the environment, tourism and our economic future."
Excessive nutrients, such as nitrogen, discharged from septic systems and other sources have contaminated Cape Cod bays, rivers and streams. Nitrogen overload causes growth of nuisance plants, weeds and algae, destroying habitat for native finfish, shellfish and plants. Nutrient pollution can also lead to a decline in fishing, shell-fishing, tourism and property values.
"Nutrient pollution is a serious threat to the quality of life on Cape Cod, and finding a solution to this complex problem is a priority for the Commonwealth," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan. "We will work with the Cape Cod Commission and local communities to ensure that a regional, watershed-based plan will be drafted to protect the Cape for generations to come."
Cost estimates for implementing a solution to the nutrient problem range from $3 to $8 billion; the lower amount depends upon achieving a locally driven regional approach built on communities partnering around shared watersheds. This funding will provide the Commission with the resources they need to develop the most cost-effective and environmentally sound approaches to managing water quality across the Cape.
The Commission will use $3 million to develop a plan that will prioritize water resources, identifying the most impaired or endangered, and the actions needed locally to achieve water quality goals as quickly as possible. The plan will also limit the amount of infrastructure needed by prioritizing those areas requiring "shared" systems to restore water quality. It will also provide an opportunity to more fully evaluate decentralized and innovative approaches, and identify preferred solutions for nutrient management in nitrogen-sensitive watersheds. A portion of those funds have now been transferred to the Commission to begin work on the plan.
An additional $350,000 appropriated by the Trust will be used to build a Cape Cod Wastewater "SmartMap" and cost model. It will link land-use data with newly developed scientific and financial planning data to help Cape communities identify environmentally appropriate and affordable wastewater infrastructure solutions. It will also support the development of the regional management plan.
MassDEP will oversee the plan development, in conjunction with other officers of the Trust. Once the plan is finalized and certified by Governor Patrick, it will be submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for approval.
"MassDEP will partner with the Commission and local officials to develop and implement a cost-effective solution that addresses the serious nutrient problems that exist in watersheds across the Cape," said MassDEP Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell. "We will ensure that this process includes significant citizen participation and public input every step of the way."
"Cape Cod's environment is its economy," said Cape Cod Commission Executive Director Paul Niedzwiecki. "Our state environmental partners have provided the means to forge years of local planning into watershed-based solutions that are effective and efficient."
"The Cape Cod Commission has been working for years to find a cost-effective solution to the region's wastewater problems and I want to thank Governor Patrick and Treasurer Grossman for understanding that this is a pressing environmental issue for the Cape Cod region," Senate President Therese Murray said. "It is clear that the problem is only going to get worse if action is not taken in the immediate future and this funding will allow the Cape Cod Commission to take the next step in developing a water quality plan."
"Our working motto on the Cape, facing the most significant environmental challenge of our generation, is that we have to think regionally, and act locally," said Sen. Dan Wolf. "This strong support at the state level allows us to do just that: plan watershed by watershed, implement community by community, garner all available resources to do so, and keep the final pricetag as low as possible."
"The need to preserve and protect Cape Cod's sole source aquifer and coastal waters is not only critically important to our fishing and tourism industries, but also the health and well-being of people who live on Cape Cod," said Rep. Brian Mannal. "This step will enable the Cape Cod Commission to begin developing a wastewater management plan that will serve as the roadmap for avoiding a looming environmental catastrophe in our region."
"Much like the recent discussions in Boston have been around transportation infrastructure, on Cape Cod, our focus has been on the long-standing need for improved wastewater treatment," said Rep. Timothy Madden. "Those of us who live on and visit the Cape come here to enjoy the wonderful natural resources. This agreement is an important step towards ensuring an improved quality of life for future generations. Doing nothing cannot be an option, and it will take a substantial investment from the state and our towns to make this a reality."
"This funding is very helpful to all of us on the Cape. It will enable us to move the process along and develop a plan that is environmentally sound and cost effective," said Rep. Sarah Peake.
"Water quality, wastewater and the economy are regional issues for the Cape and are inherently tied together so it is essential that we have a regional plan for dealing with water quality issues that affect the Cape as a region," said Rep. Cleon Turner. "We are grateful to the Patrick-Murray Administration and State Treasurer Steve Grossman's office for providing the funds necessary to develop this plan."
The MOU was signed by Treasurer Grossman, MassDEP Commissioner Kimmell and Commission Executive Director Niedzwiecki. Also signing on were Barnstable County Commissioners Mary Pat Flynn, Sheila Lyons and William Doherty.
The MOU designates the Commission as the area-wide planning agency for Cape Cod and it requires the Commission to draw up the water quality management plan. The agreement also outlines the responsibilities required to be carried out by the Trust, MassDEP and the Commission.
Among the items listed in the MOU Scope of Work is establishment of a regulatory agency working group to oversee the Sec. 208 planning process, and the creation of a robust public participation process that will include advisory committees at the Commission level, watershed level and municipal level.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills, and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.