University of Maryland Study Raises Concerns, Questions about Effectiveness of State's Shoreline Protection Law

(ANNAPOLIS, MD)—Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), issued this statement following the release today of a report, Maryland's Critical Area Protection Program; Variances and Enforcement in Selected Jurisdictions from 2012 to 2014, by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law:

"Even as Maryland is considering weakening the state's Critical Area Act law to make the shoreline protection law more friendly to business, this study raises concerns that the law already has been severely compromised.

"This study raises a host of troubling questions. Why are local governments granting variances so frequently to builders who want to trespass in the most sensitive shoreline areas? The law is supposed to protect those shorelines. Some counties grant 100 percent of variances requests, and the 'best' county grants nearly 90 percent of builders' requests.

"The report indicates that despite the Critical Area Act, Worcester County has allowed development along 31 percent of its coastline, a 12 percent increase since 1995. Queen Anne's has allowed 27 percent, a nearly eight percent rise.

"Clearly, the questions raised by this report should worry every Marylander who thought our most ecologically sensitive shorelines areas were being protected. The report clearly shows a lack of accountability and transparency on the part of local governments. It also suggests a lack of leadership on behalf of Maryland and the Critical Area Commission, both of which seem lax in overseeing local government actions."

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