July 17, 2013Beth Card Assistant Commissioner, MassDEP 1 Winter Street Boston, MA 02108
Please accept the following as comments on the draft Nutrient Management Framework. We appreciate the opportunity to give you our thoughts on this document as well as the briefing provided to Andrea and I last winter in Worcester. After reviewing these comments you might want to talk with us again in case we’ve got something wrong or misconstrued.
Is there a revised draft document that describes the framework other than the powerpoint presentations we saw? I looked on the website and didn’t see an actual document that would describe the framework. I have reviewed the nutrient management page and the mapping feature showing attainment status. Any guidance document outlining the policy should be made available at some point for formal public comment.
We are comfortable at this point with having implementation guidance, but it should go through a robust public process. Our assumption is that refinement of threshold values based on a robust suite of ecological response variables and tiered aquatic life uses would be forthcoming in the future. We would hope the document reflects this assumption very clearly. The current water quality standards, antidegradation policies, and classifications warrant refinement to ensure we are meeting our goals for the biological part of the Clean Water Act’s “holy trinity” of chemical, physical, and biological integrity.
The idea of using trophic status to characterize thresholds and impacts is reasonable and has the advantage of being generally understood by the knowledgeable public. The assumptions of how the management framework will be implemented are practical and allow for efficient use of state resources (which are admittedly and unfortunately inadequate given budget reductions). The restoration and antidegradation targets set out for each waterbody classification (or trophic status) are critical values in determining the outcomes achieved by this framework. The selection of those targets is exceedingly important as it represents what the public thinks is achievable for our waters.
We understand the framework indicates in some instances (antidegradation targets for both mesotrophic lakes and oligotrophic and mesotrophic rivers) the values will be refined with further data analysis. Our preference would be that any document indicate broadly that all of these values will continue to be refined as a result of both further analysis AND data collection. If further data analysis is needed on the lower end values for oligo- and mesotrophic (1) systems, why not rivers that are mesotrophic (2) which have a seemingly very high value of 50-100 ppb? This seems to skew resources toward practicalities of implementation (meeting lower thresholds) rather than determining a valid ecological condition first and then dealing with implementation later.
CRC fully appreciates that there are instances where effluent limits designed to protect or restore waters are a tough slog for municipalities in terms of cost. We welcome thoughtful discussions about how to implement these constructively, but that conversation should not be packed inside the development of restoration or antidegradation targets more than is based on the existing classification system.
Our comments focus on the restoration targets and are informed by discussions with aquatic biologists, reviews of EPA documents referenced by MassDEP staff, and evaluation of thresholds used elsewhere in New England.
- We understand that while there is a restoration target of 35-100 ppb TP for Class C lakes, which would at the upper end describe a highly enriched and likely highly degraded aquatic community, there are no Class C lakes. The framework might benefit from such a qualifying statement because the way the table reads it is a bit unsettling for those who understand the definition of eutrophy in terms of