November 29, 2010
New Report: Thousands of Jobs at Stake as Maryland Submits Bay Clean-up Plan
A Strong Plan Could Create Employment for Marylanders, but Weak Plan Could Kill Jobs
(ANNAPOLIS, MD.) -- The livelihoods of thousands of Marylanders, and potentially thousands of new jobs, could depend on whether Maryland today submits a strong Watershed Implementation Plan (WIP) that reduces pollution into streams, rivers and the Bay, according to a new report from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF). The report examined the broad economic benefits of clean water in Maryland and across the watershed, and found that investing in clean water technologies creates jobs, generates economic activity and saves money in the long run.
"The Chesapeake Bay can be a fertile source of jobs as well as crabs and rockfish," said Kim Coble, CBF Maryland Executive Director. "This report totals up what we've lost economically with the Bay's decline, and how much more we stand to lose if we don't increase our commitment to reducing pollution. The more we accelerate the cleanup the more potential jobs for Marylanders."
The Bay and its tributaries provide an economic bounty of billions of dollars in jobs and revenue, even higher property values, the studies show. But that benefit has declined dramatically in several areas. Further substantial losses are possible if the Bay is not protected and restored.
On the flip side, the review suggests a renewed commitment to cleaning up the Bay could generate thousands of new jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars in new income, revenue, property values and other tangible benefits for Maryland.
"The paper does a good job of demonstrating that there are large economic benefits to be gained from Bay restoration, while at the same time showing that investing in restoration will create economic impacts and jobs in the region," said Dr. Douglas W Lipton, a resource economist at the University of Maryland.
The review comes as Maryland and five other Bay watershed states are scheduled to submit their final WIPs to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Each state is required to meet a new pollution diet set by the EPA, and the WIPs are the individual state's detailed plans for meeting that diet.
Each year commercial and recreational fishermen, boaters, wildlife watchers and others take to the state's waterways, and in the process earn livelihoods from their catch, or spend money on gear, supplies, housing and other necessities. Those activities in turn produce further economic windfalls in seafood processing plants, restaurants, grocery stores and elsewhere.
About 11,000 people in Maryland earned $150 million in jobs directly or indirectly connected to the seafood industry in 2008. About 7,200 people worked in jobs connected to recreational fishing. The total impact on the Maryland economy from recreational boating is estimated to be more than $2 billion annually and sustains 35,025 jobs.
But the economic bounty of the Bay and its tributaries has shown severe signs of decline in some quarters, as poor water quality, overfishing, and loss of fish and wildlife habitat have caused drop-offs in crab and oyster harvests and other activities. For instance, 136 oyster shucking houses provided jobs in Maryland and Virginia in 1974, but today only a half-dozen houses remain, and scant few shucking jobs.
The good news is the Bay is an economic driver that can generate substantially more jobs and income as it is cleaned up, according to multiple studies. For instance, a University of Virginia study found that 12,000 jobs of one-year's duration would be created if farmers in that state implemented sufficient conservation measures: trees planted along streams on their property, cover crops planted in the winter, etc.
One contracting company in Arbutus, Maryland reported it employs 115 full-time workers and supports an additional 100 subcontractors who provide trucking materials, concrete, paving, and fencing required for stormwater mitigation projects. That type of work could surge should Maryland submit a strong WIP with specific plans for reducing stormwater pollution – the only type of pollution increasing around the Bay.
One study concluded that improvements in water quality along Maryland's western shore to levels that meet state bacteria standards could raise property values six percent.
Upgrading sewage treatment plants across the watershed has created hundreds of construction jobs, and will create perhaps thousands more as the program grows. Also, upgrading individual septic systems has employed installers, electricians, and others involved in the business. These upgrades have pumped millions of dollars into the region's economy, and could boost employment even more should Maryland accelerate its program to replace failing, polluting septics.
The report is available at cbf.org/economic-report.