With just four months to complete the first update of the Cape’s regional water quality plan since 1978, the Cape Cod Commission is taking stock of the work to date and preparing for the June 1 submission of the Section 208 Plan Update to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.
The Feb. 6 Stakeholder Summit will be held from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Resort and Conference Center in Hyannis. The Summit is broken into three parts, concluding with a keynote address on watershed governance by Ben Grumbles, President of the U.S. Water Alliance and a former EPA assistant administrator.
The Summit comes at a key transition point in a process that formally began in May 2013. During the first six months, the Commission worked with 170 stakeholders to develop watershed-specific baseline information about the nature of the problem and range of possible solutions. Working cooperatively, the Commission also held regular meetings with MassDEP, U.S. EPA and others to develop a more flexible regulatory structure that allows for innovative approaches.
In January 2013, the Commission was designated to update the 1978 Section 208 Plan by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. To carry out the work, the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust provided $3 million to fund the project.
A key goal of the Summit, which has a registration of more than 270 attendees, is to begin organizing the four regional stakeholder groups. Over the next three months, these working groups will help synthesize work to date, which developed in parallel, but separate tracks through different committee and working groups.
A series of five 30-minute breakout sessions will introduce stakeholders to this work and set a foundation for the next set of three meetings in February, March and April.
The breakout sessions cover scenario planning; regulatory, legal and institutional issues; implementation; stakeholder involvement; and the “triple bottom line” analysis as a decision support tool for each watershed.
The Section 208 Update will not provide an optimal solution to improve water quality, but rather a range of options and support tools to assist communities in developing their own plans.
Commission Executive Director Niedzwiecki will open the Summit with an introduction and overview of the Section 208 Plan Update. Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce CEO Wendy Northcross will speak to the interdependence of the Cape’s environment and economy.
Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Kenneth Kimmell, who designated the Commission to update the Section 208 Plan, is also scheduled to address the Summit.
“The most effective and affordable approach to this problem is a regional effort,” Kimmell said when making the designation. “Nitrogen-loading is a Cape-wide problem, with estuaries and watersheds often crossing municipal boundaries.”
In the morning session, Summit attendees will also hear from the EPA and Industrial Economics, Inc. on the “No Action Scenario,” which looks at the effects on the Cape’s economy and environment if nothing is done about nutrient loading. The Consensus Building Institute, which facilitated the initial stakeholder meetings, will present “Reflecting on the Last Six Months of Stakeholder Engagement.”
The lunch session features state Treasurer Steven Grossman. As Chair of the Water Pollution Abatement Trust, Treasurer Grossman supported funding of the Section 208 Plan Update.
“Maintaining and enhancing water quality is critical to Cape Cod and all its residents,” said Treasurer Grossman. “Solving this problem will have a dramatic impact on the Cape’s economy, tourism and property values for generations to come.”
The Keynote address by Grumbles will close the Summit.