Buzzards Bay Project NEP logo

Buzzards Bay National Estuary Program

Implementing the CCMP

Final 8/91

Chapter 9: Implementing the CCMP

Download the original copy as a pdf file of this action plan, with all tables and graphics. This pdf version of the chapter contains the municipal endorsements and commitment letters from DEP, MCZM, EPA, and other agencies on their specific actions planned in support of the CCMP.

Buzzards Bay Municipal Action Compact to implement the CCMP
The Buzzards Bay Action Compact

The Players and Their Roles

Buzzards Bay is an estuary in transition. Increased development along its shores, coupled with decades of dumping industrial and municipal wastes into its waters, has placed the Bay in jeopardy. Fortunately, it is not too late to reverse the current trend of declining water quality.

The action plans presented in Chapter 5 include a number of stated commitments and other recommended steps that must be taken now and in the future to preserve and protect Buzzards Bay. The action plans also identify the organizations that are responsible for taking those steps. These organizations include regulatory and planning agencies at the federal, state, regional, and local level, legislative bodies, and citizens groups. Table 9.1 shows which organization is primarily responsible for each of the recommendations in the action plans. This chapter describes the role of each of organization involved in implementing these recommendations and future work that is needed to ensure that complete implementation occurs within a reasonable time.

For many of the recommendations, these organizations share overlapping responsibilities, and close coordination is required to ensure that the proper actions are taken. For other recommendations, a single organization can achieve the desired result. For still others, the implementing responsibility may belong to one organization, but another may be able to provide technical or financial assistance.

Federal and state regulatory agencies such as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) have authorities that will be used to address many of the recommendations contained in the action plans. However, the major focus of this CCMP and the Buzzards Bay NEP as a whole has been on compelling local authorities to take action to preserve the Bay and its resources because, in the New England tradition of home rule, such management decisions belong to the community and its inhabitants. At the same time, the CCMP recognizes that a fully integrated intergovernmental approach is optimal, because federal and state agencies not only can provide local managers with scientific and technical information needed for wise municipal decisions, but also can complement those decisions with additional regulatory actions on the multitude of existing and potential pollution problems. This is a particularly appropriate role for state government, which owns all rights in tidal waterways beyond the low water mark and holds a public access easement for fishing, fowling, and navigation in the intertidal zone - all "in trust" for the benefit of the general public. The Commonwealth has a responsibility for effective stewardship of these and other public trust lands, and protecting the integrity of the Buzzard's Bay ecosystem is clearly an important part of that responsibility. (A full discussion of the Public Trust Doctrine is contained in Slade, 1990).

Underlying all the recommendations presented earlier is the need for citizen involvement. Such involvement will be the crucial ingredient for the success of this Plan and the protection of Buzzards Bay. The management recommendations presented here will not be accepted merely because they are good ideas. There is a political element too, one that involves individual hardships as well as implementation difficulties and cost. Citizens must be prepared to support local initiatives resulting from these recommendations and to demand action if none is taken.

Over the past six months, the Buzzards Bay NEP staff have negotiated with the state and federal agencies identified as responsible for specific regulatory or institutional actions. These commitments have been included in the respective Action Plans with which they correspond (See Chapter 5). Also, a full set of commitment letters in support of the CCMP are included at the end of this chapter. Of the federal and state agencies discussed, state agencies under the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs (EEA) will have the most wide-ranging regulatory authority to control point and nonpoint sources of pollution to Buzzards Bay, and these agencies have formally committed to many of the actions prescribed in this CCMP. In particular, DEP (an agency under EEA) is prepared to dedicate manpower and resources toward implementing the recommendations contained here.

Equally as important, Buzzards Bay NEP staff have received first year commitments from several Buzzards Bay municipalities. These local commitments have been included with the relevant action plans. In future years, the Project, working through the auspices of the Buzzards Bay Action Committee (BBAC), will continue to receive commitments from the towns on an annual basis.;

Over the next two to three years, EPA and the Commonwealth, through the National Estuary Program (NEP), will hopefully continue to support the Buzzards Bay Project. During this time, the Management Committee will continue to direct allocation of available NEP funds, monitor the status of CCMP implementation activities (including identifying any major roadblocks that develop and devising strategies for overcoming them), and monitor the effectiveness of actions taken in protecting the Buzzards Bay environment. It is expected that most of the funds from EPA will be used to support several BBP staff positions, headquartered at the CZM office in Marion, to assist local communities in carrying out CCMP recommendations. The BBAC will have the major responsibility for long-term implementation of the CCMP at the local level. However, for this to occur the BBAC must find a funding mechanism to support an Executive Director. It is hoped that once federal and state funds are no longer available, the municipalities will combine to continue this critical position.

Implementation of this CCMP will take place over the next several years. It will require that local, regional, state, and federal entities continue to cooperate to protect and enhance the viability of the Bay and its resources. Implementation can be achieved in a variety of ways improving regulatory programs, planning for the future, establishing a regional perspective, taking legislative action, and institutionalizing the CCMP. The following sections of this chapter present a general discussion on each of these strategies.

Improving Regulatory Programs

The discussion below outlines regulatory actions necessary for action plan implementation. These could include developing new regulations or simply interpreting or enforcing existing laws and regulations more stringently. Some of these actions have been agreed to, with commitments established, while others remain as CCMP recommendations.


In Massachusetts, EPA has primary responsibility for issuing wastewater discharge permits under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), although most permits are issued jointly with DEP. EPA is expanding its authority toward the permitting of stormwater discharges. Preliminary steps have already been taken to develop a process for permitting those discharges that are causing the closure of significant shellfish resource areas.;

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and EPA will need to develop a new indicator or set of indicators to assess public health risk from coastal waters contaminated by sewage. The current fecal coliform indicator used to classify shellfish areas has serious limitations, but research has not yet provided a better indicator.


The action plans contain several recommendations that call for new or amended state regulations and standards. In Massachusetts, DEP is the major regulatory authority for environmental protection, and as such will have responsibility for several of the recommendations contained here. As discussed above, DEP jointly administers the NPDES program and has agreed to work cooperatively with EPA in establishing a policy for stormwater permitting.

DEP should revise Title 5 to account for the effects of sea-level rise and shoreline erosion. The Title 5 regulations should also be expanded to allow for the installation of septic systems that control pollution through new technologies such as denitrification. Although DEP is moving more in this direction, a full commitment will be necessary. Without such an expansion, there will be no impetus for homeowners or communities to upgrade or install state-of-the-art septic systems.

State water quality standards do not contain numerical criteria for nutrients, but include a general statement that nutrients should not exceed site-specific limitations necessary to control "accelerated or cultural eutrophication." In order for communities to more readily and equitably implement the CCMP recommendations addressing nitrogen-sensitive embayments and land-use management, DEP will need to adopt regulatory loading standards for nitrogen. The Department has, in fact, committed to adopting such a standard for nitrogen inputs to sensitive embayments in its 1993 revision to state water quality standards. DEP will also need to more stringently interpret the current "antidegradation" provisions of its water quality standards to encompass nutrient loads and their potential impacts on water uses. Progress is also being made here as DEP's Antidegradation Task Force will look toward adoption of an interim policy in cooperation with EPA and the Buzzards Bay NEP.

DEP should also improve the state's wetlands regulations to address a number of identified weaknesses that are contributing to small but cumulative losses of wetlands over time. While there have been some improvements at a policy level (in particular, no net loss of wetlands) these changes should also be made at a regulatory level. Improvements in wetlands protection also include a commitment for expanding the Wetlands Conservancy Program to protect existing wetlands in most Buzzards Bay towns.

The action plans call for EEA to develop criteria for regulating contaminated sediments for purposes of dredged material disposal and to ensure that pollutants in sediments are not allowed to accumulate to levels that will endanger aquatic resources or be taken up by seafood species and pose a potential threat to public health. EOEA also has established an Enforcement Task Force. To help prevent oil spills and runoff of oil into the Bay, this task force should more aggressively pursue violations of the state's oil storage and disposal regulations.

Implementation of the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) should also be enhanced by more carefully considering the potential cumulative impacts of proposed development projects in the Buzzards Bay area and by requiring developers to determine the total pollutant loads, including the effects of their development, in comparison to the carrying capacity of the embayment for specified pollutants.


Much of Buzzards Bay is dominated by small yet cumulatively significant nonpoint sources of pollution. Except for the major discharges located in and around the greater New Bedford area and around certain other sewage treatment outfalls, most of the environmental degradation that has occurred elsewhere in the Bay is the result of the cumulative input of contaminants from small individual sources such as septic systems, stormwater runoff, lawn care and agricultural practices, and boats. In Massachusetts, because a considerable amount of authority has been delegated to local boards, these discharges will be managed only if these local authorities take action. This will not happen automatically; serious time and effort must be devoted to ensuring that implementation occurs.

The Buttermilk Bay Overlay District, designed to protect Buttermilk Bay from excessive nitrogen inputs and approved by Plymouth, Wareham and Bourne, is the first major implementation success. This is the only coastal overlay protection district in the country designed to prevent eutrophication of coastal waters. It will serve as the prototype for similar local initiatives.

Most of the municipalities surrounding Buzzards Bay have agreed to pursue initiatives recommended in CCMP action plans as part of the first year's implementation agenda. These actions include:

-- Develop nitrogen loading strategies (Dartmouth, Westport, Bourne, and Falmouth)

-- Identify and correct illegal discharges affecting shellfish areas (Dartmouth, Mattapoisett, Bourne, and Falmouth).

-- Designate a public health official to assist the Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) in classifying shellfish areas (Fairhaven, Wareham, Bourne, and Falmouth).

-- Work with DMF on expansion of the "conditional approval" program for shellfish areas (Dartmouth and Fairhaven).

-- Adopt subdivision bylaws that require best management practices for stormwater runoff (Marion, Wareham, and Bourne).

-- Construct a boat pumpout facility and develop a management plan for ensuring its use (Westport and Dartmouth).

-- Amend the local sanitary code to increase the setback of septic systems from resource areas and private wells (Westport, Wareham, Marion, Bourne, and Falmouth).

-- Appoint an oil spill coordinator who is fully cognizant of the local contingency plan and prepared to handle necessary response activities (Westport, Fairhaven, Mattapoisett, Marion, Wareham, Bourne, and Falmouth).

-- Implement a program that ensures boatyards and marinas have specified spill response equipment on site (Marion).

-- Develop watersheet zoning bylaws (Dartmouth).

Communities that have not yet agreed to pursue many of the actions listed above will be encouraged to do so in future years. The action plans include other recommendations for new or tougher local bylaws to protect critical resources from degradation. The following list summarizes regulatory measures recommended for each of the municipalities that will also be pursued by the Buzzards Bay NEP and the Buzzards Bay Action Committee.

Amend zoning and subdivision bylaws where possible to incorporate the results of a buildout analysis and better land-use management.

Adopt non-zoning wetlands bylaws and regulations to give better protection to isolated wetlands and wetland buffer zones.

Develop performance standards for oil and grease removal from catch basins.

Develop regulations governing management practices for fueling of vessels in harbors.

Develop regulations requiring oil-spill-response equipment at marinas.

Develop coastal construction setbacks from resource areas such as wetlands, and more stringently regulate construction in areas subject to sea-level rise and shoreline erosion.

Develop regulations banning the use of septic-system cleaners that contain carcinogens.

Many Buzzards Bay communities are handicapped in their efforts to implement local regulatory programs because they lack personnel with the requisite technical expertise. Most communities do not employ planners and several do not maintain full-time health agents or conservation agents. Due to the wide range of disciplines required of any one local employee, even the communities that retain staff are hard-pressed to deal expertly with the many complex environmental issues that they must confront. Technical expertise and professional staff are needed not only for planning and protection of wetlands and public health, but also to manage a host of other land-use activities. To ensure complete, efficient, and consistent implementation by various local boards of the myriad recommendations that affect water quality, communities should establish the position of water quality coordinator. The responsibilities of the water quality coordinator would be to:

Establish water quality goals and objectives so that all involved local departments and boards clearly understand the critical water quality issues that need to be considered in making any decisions or policies that affect living resources or water quality.

Review the community's present management and regulatory policies and recommend necessary modifications.

Advise selectmen and other policy makers as to appropriate actions necessary to meet established CCMP goals and objectives.

Review relevant environmental data collected by the Division of Marine Fisheries and other agencies, as well as data from research organizations, and integrate this information into the management program.

Planning for the Future

To protect the ecological integrity of Buzzards Bay, decisions must be made within an established framework that sets forth the goals, objectives, and policies for appropriate uses of the Bay. Planning is one way to anticipate the future or to allocate scarce resources. At the federal and state levels, several opportunities exist to improve water quality planning. However, at the local level, careful examination of future needs and opportunities is lost in the overwhelming workload of reviewing and permitting development proposals.


Federal agencies should undertake a variety of planning activities to implement the recommendations in this CCMP. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already committed to help initiate the development of a dredged material management plan for the Bay. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service needs to ensure that any remediation plan developed for the New Bedford Harbor Superfund site will adequately protect natural resources. The Federal Emergency Management Agency should adopt new floodplain boundaries submitted by communities subject to sea-level rise or shoreline erosion. The U.S. Department of Agriculture should continue to work with agricultural users to minimize the offsite transport of agrichemicals.


In accordance with the provisions of Section 319 of the federal Clean Water Act, DEP has prepared the Massachusetts Nonpoint Source Management Plan (NPS Plan). The NPS Plan proposes an orderly and progressive approach to prevent continued degradation of Massachusetts surface waters and groundwaters due to nonpoint sources. Because the NPS Plan is used as a guide for awarding federal funds to the state for nonpoint-source pollution projects, DEP should adopt appropriate CCMP recommendations and incorporate them into the NPS plan immediately.

In addition to the NPS Plan, the federal Clean Water Act also requires each state to establish and maintain a planning process for managing water quality. One element of the state's water quality management program has been to prepare basin plans for various river basins within Massachusetts. A basin plan identifies water quality problems and proposes solutions. At present, DEP is revising its basin plan for Buzzards Bay. DEP should adopt the CCMP as part of this planning effort. EPA uses the basin plan in the same way as the NPS Plan to focus its grant funds on activities that address priority problems.


Most importantly, as discussed in Chapter 7, Buzzards Bay communities must engage in land-use planning to manage future growth. Previous efforts to manage growth in Massachusetts have failed because of the lack of a coordinated planning framework. In Massachusetts, planning is not a prerequisite to zoning.

Buzzards Bay communities need to plan for growth and development in a way that protects environmental quality. Existing tools include the buildout analysis (which considers the maximum carrying capacity of embayment areas to assimilate pollution) harbor-management plans, and oil-spill contingency plans.

Local communities also need to plan for predicted changes to the natural environment due to phenomena such as sea-level rise and coastal erosion, for protecting critical environmental areas such as wetlands and shellfish habitat, and for reducing effluent flows from municipal sewage treatment plants. As more shellfish areas are closed, fishing pressure upon open areas is increased. Shellfish managements plans and good catch statistics are important to enhance resource productivity.

Planning is also an important element in correcting known pollution sources, whether they be from stormwater, septic systems, or boats. Resources (both personnel and financial) are limited. Communities must identify and prioritize sources that have the greatest impact on water quality.

The Buzzards Bay CCMP has incorporated many examples of effective approaches that communities can adopt and utilize to protect the Bay. In addition, Table 9.2 contains a matrix showing the relative importance of each CCMP action plan for individual Buzzards Bay communities. The key determinant of action plan relevance is protection of the Bay's water quality and resources. Buzzards Bay communities should use this matrix in determining their priorities for implementing CCMP recommendations.

Establishing a Regional Perspective

As mentioned throughout the CCMP, there is an essential need to view Buzzards Bay as a regional resource that is shared by 17 communities. Collectively, little has been done to ensure that abutting communities sharing the Bay adopt similar regulations. Moreover, even within many towns, cooperation and coordination among boards is lacking. The protection of a resource the size and complexity of Buzzards Bay requires cooperation among the communities sharing the resource as well as between the local institutions responsible for proper control of land use. A regional body acting through influence or authority, operating with and through existing interests and jurisdictions, will promote the concepts of the CCMP and ensure that its recommendations are carried out equitably and completely at the local level. In addition, given the significant annual turnover of local board members, a regional body is also important to maintain consistency and a high technical level of understanding of Bay problems and available solutions.

Realizing the importance of a regional organization to the future of Buzzards Bay, the Buzzards Bay Action Committee (BBAC) was created in September, 1990. The BBAC is actually an outgrowth of the Buzzards Bay Advisory Committee, which was formed through the auspices of the Buzzards Bay NEP to allow municipal officials a role in the direction of the Project. However, the BBAC has now evolved into an independent voice speaking for Buzzards Bay towns.

The first major step in the evolution was hiring an executive director with the primary responsibility of promoting implementation of the CCMP by organizing local action and developing regional approaches to common local problems. The executive director has four major tasks:

Work with the BBAC to assist in the development of an organizational purpose to facilitate CCMP action.

Diagnose the capability of local boards to implement the CCMP recommendations and work with the BBAC to correct any identified problems.

Facilitate the provision of technical assistance to local boards and officials to carry out their CCMP responsibilities.

Work towards the development of mechanisms for ensuring the long term implementation of the plan. Develop inter-municipal cooperation procedures and explore financing alternatives.

The initial accomplishment of the BBAC was the unanimous agreement of all 12 member communities to sign the Buzzards Bay Action Compact. This includes all 10 coastal communities plus Rochester and Acushnet which do not have coastline but are within a few miles of the Bay. The Compact's major features are:

1) agreement to exchange information and ideas to expedite the region's ability to implement sound environmental regulations and enhance Buzzards Bay and;

2) agreement to review and update town regulations in support of the action plans contained in the CCMP. The Compact was signed by the Mayor of New Bedford and the leading Selectman from each of the other 11 towns on January 11, 1991. Since the signing of the Compact, Plymouth has also joined the BBAC. The 4 additional towns that lie in the outer reaches of the Buzzards Bay drainage basin are presently being approached to become member communities. The evolution of the BBAC into an action-oriented organization and the adoption of the Buzzard Bay Compact are major achievements for an area with no history of conducting regional programs.

Ultimately, the success of the BBAC will hinge upon the continued ability to fund an executive director. EPA Region I has provided funding for 2 years, and it is hoped that the member communities will combine to appropriate funds each year after that.

Taking Legislative Action

The Massachusetts Legislature is considering a bill that proposes to establish a shellfish grant program to provide financial assistance to local communities for enhancing shellfish productivity. This program would replace the shellfish reimbursement program that had been in effect for nearly 30 years. This bill should be enacted at a funding level of $400,000.

In 1988, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a transportation bond bill containing a number of provisions for control of nonpoint sources. One provision created a stormwater runoff grant program. This grant program should be expanded to fund stormwater runoff projects in the Buzzards Bay area.

Since 1987, proposed legislation has been before the Massachusetts Legislature to establish a state program for nonpoint-source control. The Legislature should take immediate action to formally establish such a program within EOEA in order to provide regulatory authority to control and abate nonpoint-source pollution.

At the federal level, there are several bills now pending before the Congress that would address estuarine protection issues such as elimination of marine combined sewer overflows, establishment of marine water quality standards, and improved point and nonpoint-source marine pollution control. Passage of these bills would provide stronger regulatory tools for EPA and the states to control coastal pollution.

Other federal legislation has been introduced by Congressman Studds and is referred to as "Operation Coastal Shield of 1991". In particular, this Act seeks to extend EPA's involvement in each estuary's management conference beyond the approval of the CCMP. Operation Coastal Shield also authorizes funds up to $20 million per year for National Estuary Programs with an approved CCMP.

Institutionalizing the CCMP

CZM has a well established and effective review process for evaluating actions, especially federal actions, that may impact the state's delineated coastal zone. This process has been institutionalized within the state's governmental framework for over 12 years. It is well suited for overseeing proposed actions or projects for their consistency with the CCMP. While the review of federal actions through the "federal consistency" review process carries the greatest authority, CZM presents the added dimension of reviewing other actions that will significantly affect the coastal zone. This is particularly relevant to Buzzards Bay where the CCMP has identified local land use activities as its area of greatest concern.

The Buzzards Bay Management Committee in consideration of this, as well as the NOAA-EPA Agreement ("... to avoid duplication of effort ... and the development of conflicting regulatory mechanisms...") has determined that it is in the best interest of the Buzzards Bay NEP and its CCMP to delegate the function of federal consistency review and the review of other non-federal actions to CZM. This will be accomplished by incorporating the CCMP Action Plans into the Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP).

The most significant result from incorporation of the CCMP into the CZMP will be the expansion of the coastal zone boundary to encompass some or all of the Buzzards Bay drainage basin and thus expand CZM's oversight. The evaluation of projects, many of which involve critical land-use decisions in the upper reaches of the basin, would be most valuable to CZM and the Buzzards Bay NEP. The recent reauthorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act has strengthened the state's authority to review land-side effects and it should provide the flexibility for allowing this change.

After the Administrator of EPA signs the final CCMP for Buzzards Bay, the process of incorporating the document within the state's coastal program will begin. New CZMP regulatory policies will be drafted that apply only to the Buzzards Bay drainage basin. In addition, non-regulatory policies that apply to non-enforceable CCMP actions will also be drafted. Because this will be the first attempt to merge a CCMP and a CZMP, it will receive close scrutiny and probably require a lengthy review period. A complete discussion of this and other consistency issues, together with the list of federal programs to be reviewed, is available in the Buzzards Bay Federal Consistency Report.

The Buzzards Bay NEP envisions that once the CCMP is merged with the CZMP, CZM will be responsible for periodically convening the Management Committee on an as needed basis. The primary purpose will be to ensure that state and federal agencies are complying with their CCMP commitments. All state and federal agencies that have made implementation commitments will be represented on the Management Committee. The BBAC will also be represented on the committee and will be responsible for municipal commitments. In order to keep the management framework intact and help ensure that implementation is successful, the Buzzards Bay Management Conference will ask the EPA Administrator to extend the Conference for an additional five years.

Addendum to Chapter 9

Supporting Documentation for CCMP Implementation

The following correspondence and endorsement demonstrate the wide-spread support garnered for the Buzzards Bay CCMP. Included are a resolution from the Buzzards Bay Action Committee, representing the municipalities of Buzzards Bay, as well as letters of commitment from key federal and state agencies. Also included is a federal consistency determination from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management. The Buzzards Bay NEP is proud of the unanimous acceptance and endorsement that the CCMP has received from those who will be directly responsible for its implementation. The BBP is confident that this will be translated into the long-term protection of Buzzards Bay as a special national resource.