(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) has sent to all candidates for governor and the legislature in Maryland a list of nine "critical actions" that must be undertaken over the next four years in order for Maryland to fulfill its commitment to clean local waters and to restore the Chesapeake Bay. The list also was provided to CBF's 100,000 members in Maryland to allow them to vet candidates prior to Election Day.
"This is both an exciting but also an apprehensive time for people who love our Maryland creeks, rivers and the Chesapeake Bay. We are finally making progress. Our water is becoming safer for swimming and fishing. But we've picked the low fruit when it comes to solutions to pollution. It remains to be seen if new Maryland leaders have the willpower to finish the job," said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director for CBF.
Maryland's new governor and new legislators will step into office at a critical juncture in the history of the Bay's restoration. By 2017, a full 60 percent of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint must be implemented. That is the science-based clean-up plan that Maryland and five other states in the Bay watershed, along with the District of Columbia, developed and committed to implement. Unlike earlier Bay clean-up efforts, the Blueprint holds jurisdictions accountable for their commitments. The entire Blueprint must be implemented by 2025.
Governor O'Malley and previous state legislators have made Maryland a leader in Bay restoration. Maryland is meeting its short-term Blueprint goals, according to an analysis released in June by CBF and the Choose Clean Water Coalition. But that analysis also showed Maryland has a long way to go to meet the 2017 and 2025 goals. Unless it accelerates its efforts, the state will fall short.
"Now is when the rubber meets the road in the history of the Bay recovery effort. The election in November will produce state officials who can lead us to the finish line of clean water, or who can dally or quit," Prost said. "Voters deserve to know how these candidates will fare in that race. How will they decide on critical decisions that face the state in the next few years?"
The recommended actions include common sense and cost-effective solutions. For instance, strengthening and better enforcing the state's Forest Conservation Act could preserve hundreds of acres of forests a year from being cleared by developers. Forests are like factories for filtering pollution. Destroying them makes neither environmental nor economic sense. Planting trees along both urban and rural streams also must be accelerated. And better enforcement of other laws such as the Stormwater Management Act of 2007 and the Critical Area Act would substantially improve Maryland's odds for meeting its clean-water commitments.
The list presented to candidates includes a combination of legislative, regulatory and administrative actions. Critical actions are necessary in three general categories: 1) Stop pollution 2) Restore fisheries and 3) Enforce laws.
Among the actions are:
- Stop manure from polluting creeks and streams, especially on the Eastern Shore. Some farmers dispose of their chicken house waste in fields already saturated with phosphorus pollution from previous spreading. The University of Maryland has developed a tool to enable farmers to apply the right amount of manure on fields. Use of the tool, however, has been delayed for years. The state must require the implementation of the Phosphorus Management Tool. The Choptank and other rivers and creeks on the Eastern Shore will remain forever polluted by farm runoff if the tool is not implemented.
- Strengthen new permits that govern the amount of polluted runoff from populated counties. The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) must include measureable pollution limits in the permits. MDE also must enforce the permits, holding counties accountable if they don't achieve specific pollution reductions. In most of these populated counties taxpayers are now paying special fees to fund projects to reduce polluted runoff. The public has a right to know if that money is achieving results.
- Stop raids on the budgets of environmental programs such as the Bay Restoration Fund, the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays Trust Fund, and Program Open Space.
For more information on all nine "critical actions" click here.