The following first appeared in The Star Democrat earlier this month.
Dorchester continues to resist the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This is the regional plan to finish cleaning the Chesapeake and our local waters which was crafted through cooperation of six Bay states, and hundreds of local governments, farmers, businessmen, fishermen and other citizens.
We understand change is difficult. We understand initial cost estimates in Dorchester came in high for finally cleaning up county creeks and rivers.
But let us offer an alternative to Dorchester's plan of spending taxpayer money on lawyers to fight the Blueprint, or listening to out-of-town consultants. These lawyers and consultants offer little but talk. Their ideas have not, and will not, bring solutions for taxpayers' money.
We suggest that Dorchester's money and energy is better spent seeking real, innovative solutions. Other counties are doing just this, and are reaping success.
Take Calvert County. Initially, elected officials in Calvert were shocked at the possible cost of reducing pollution from sewage plants, septics and from polluted runoff. But instead of hiring the Funk & Bolton law firm as Dorchester and some other rural counties have done, they brought in the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland (EFC). After studying the county, and its pollution problems, EFC officials reported Calvert could do the job for less than $5 million--not for the $1.3 billion Calvert had originally estimated.
Closer to home Talbot County has cooperated with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, and others to devise an innovative pilot program to reduce polluted runoff from farms and developed areas using existing ditches. The county believes the program can cut tens of millions of dollars from its initial county-wide cleanup estimates. And Talbot citizens will benefit.
We think such approaches are far more constructive. They stand a much better chance of success.
Dorchester was the first rural county to hire Funk & Bolton to fight the Blueprint. It is our understanding the county has paid at least $25,000 to the firm, and helped convince other counties to contribute. The firm has promised many things, including fighting to reduce pollution at the Conowingo Dam. But after a year and a half the firm has provided hardly a single result.
More recently, Dorchester invited a consultant, Fred Kelly Grant from Boise, Idaho, to speak at a council meeting. Grant promised he could solve the county's problems by using some legal strategies he said worked for him in the west.
Is Grant really someone to whom the county wants to listen? His ideas seem extreme. Grant believes, for instance, that any attempt to save farms by restricting development is part of an international conspiracy centered around a non-binding resolution by the United Nations.
Grant told the county he can require the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to "coordinate" with localities over the Blueprint, and can somehow reduce the expectations for Dorchester to clean up its creeks.
Grant is way off base. The state of Maryland, not the EPA, created its own plan to reduce pollution in the Bay. The state held numerous public meetings to craft the plan, in which hundreds of people from all walks of life participated. A federal court has ruled that the Blueprint is scientifically based, had sufficient public input, and complies with federal law. As far as we know no "coordination" legal strategy which Grant says he used in western ranching issues would apply here.
Dorchester officials are properly concerned about the cost of cleaning up local creeks. They are responsible to spend public dollars wisely. But we encourage them to take the constructive course followed elsewhere. Cooperate and innovate to find real solutions. Throwing in with lawyers and extremists will only waste tax dollars.
--Alan Girard, CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director