United, We Will Get Bay on Road to Recovery

Winter View of the Chesapeake BayThe following first appeared in The Daily Times earlier this week.

Shoulders. That's what we'll need this year to maintain momentum to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

Imagine a car stuck in the mud or a snow bank. Many shoulders can free that car. The same ethic is working to restore the Chesapeake.

Salisbury and Oxford worked with the Environmental Finance Center at the University of Maryland to find a solution to polluted runoff in their locales. The researchers concluded the job will actually be cheaper in the long run by first collecting dedicated stormwater fees, rather than using general tax revenues.

Talbot County is working closely with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy on an innovative and cost-effective pilot program to use existing farm and street ditches to treat runoff rather than just to drain it from the landscape.

Queen Anne's County is working with the foundation on a pilot program to use private dollars to pay for some clean-up measures.

Similar efforts are underway throughout Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay region. Make no mistake: Whether the western shore, Pennsylvania, Virginia or elsewhere, everyone is starting to put their shoulders to the work.

This cooperation is yielding results: less nitrogen pollution coming down the Susquehanna, smaller dead zones in the summer, larger oyster harvests, recovering underwater grass beds downstream of upgraded sewage plants and other successes.

But we have a long way to go. And occasionally, we slip into the old game of finger pointing and foot dragging.

A coalition of eight rural Maryland counties, including several on the Eastern Shore, believe there are cheaper ways to clean up the bay than upgrading local sewage plants, septic and stormwater systems and improving farm operations. They want attention focused on pollution problems at the Conowingo Dam rather than in their own backyards. They have hired a law firm which makes many promises, but has yet to produce any results.

Also of concern, some farm groups are making unrealistic demands for an exhaustive economic study before they will accept new limits on phosphorus pollution from manure spread on farm fields. The Maryland Department of Agriculture is conducting a reasonable study. That should be enough.

These kinds of renegade actions are destructive. United, we will get the Chesapeake back on the road to recovery. Divided, we will fail.

This is more than a pep talk. Cooperation, innovation, and resolve are as critical to the cleanup of the bay as the plan itself, which we call the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint. This is our moment in time. We face a choice whether we will implement the plan or splinter into factions as we have done so many times over the past 30 years--environmentalists versus farmers, watermen versus government, Maryland versus other states.

Local governments on the Eastern Shore need to lend a shoulder to implement the Blueprint, not hire lawyers to thwart it. The citizens of the Shore will benefit: watermen, recreational fishermen, homeowners and more. Our children and grandchildren will benefit most of all.

--Alan Girard, CBF's Maryland Eastern Shore Director

Alan Girard

Issues in this Post

Agriculture   Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint   Community   Conservation   CBF in Maryland  




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