From the Desk of Alan Girard Winter 2014

It’s Amazing What a Little Teamwork Can Do . . .  

CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard.
CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director Alan Girard.

Photo courtesy of Alan Girard.
Girard's son's soccer team demonstrates just how powerful cooperation and teamwork can be. Photo courtesy of Alan Girard/CBF Staff.

Last fall, my son's team led the local soccer league eight games to zero going into the post-season tournament. There was no lead scorer. No one dominated the time spent at the ball. The players found that in order to succeed, everyone must do his part: Take responsibility for your position, cooperate with your teammates, and let the wins come.

Hard to believe this life lesson could be such an inspiration to a bunch of pre-teens. It's a lesson the rest of us could stand some schooling on, too.

Eastern Shore CBF staff, members, and supporters are closely watching a proposal that would prohibit nutrient-rich poultry litter from being spread on fields saturated with phosphorus, one of the Bay's most damaging pollutants. The Phosphorus Management Tool (PMT), as it's known, is well-researched and backed by over a decade of science. Yet under pressure from farmers and related interest groups, state regulators recently put the PMT on hold.

The pushback has its roots in how we handle adversity, dealing with challenges at home, work, or even on a ball field growing up. "Our farm families are worried and should not have to live under the fear of being put out of business," one Eastern Shore legislator said about the PMT without comment on how else farm pollution can be reduced. Others suggest that the PMT and most clean water solutions should not advance until pollution at the Conowingo Dam is addressed. It's not fair, they say. It's too difficult and probably won't make a difference, especially if others aren't pulling their weight.

Set aside the fear and uncertainty and you find that fairness and cooperation are at the very core of the Bay restoration effort known as the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. Based on the best science, EPA sets a pollution reduction target and every Bay state puts in place a plan to reach it, complete with implementation steps, a timeline, and potential consequences for failure. In Maryland, local government is encouraged to work together with state partners, businesses, and individuals to develop and implement the plan. 

And in some communities, the plan already is making a difference. The town of Oxford is developing a strategy prompted by the Blueprint to update its stormwater infrastructure and address flooding problems caused by polluted runoff and sea level rise. A process involving dozens of residents and groups including CBF has the community poised to fund the design of projects in the early years and build them later on.

But not every Shore community embraces the Blueprint's spirit of shared responsibility. Until Conowingo Dam pollution is controlled, Dorchester County officials mostly are holding back cleaning up local waterways, even though watermen and the county's many fishing-related businesses would stand to gain from it. Wicomico County partly because of uncertainty about how the proposed PMT will affect the farm industry is now considering joining Dorchester and other Funk & Bolton coalition counties in opposing the Blueprint.

In addition to the right to clean water, what every community on the Shore does share in common is the upcoming election this November. It's a time to reflect on what we want out of those who lead us in government—people who can leverage strengths from diverse quarters and work through difficult situations on behalf of the air we breathe and the water we drink.

Candidates would do well to be more like the amazing kids I saw play soccer last fall. They went on to sweep the tournament four games to zero, ending the season undefeated overall. I was struck most not by their ball handling or shots on goal, but how they were committed to taking responsibility and working together as a team to get a job done. For this group of kids it made all the difference in the world. Here's hoping those we elect this November will be more like them. 

—Alan Girard
Eastern Shore of Maryland Director
Chesapeake Bay Foundation


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