I have a column out today about how despite the fact that every elected official in Maryland talks about the need for saving the Chesapeake Bay, the policies we have been passing(and not passing) are contradictory. A lot of these issues such as highway construction over mass transit and unchecked growth are interconnected with our dependency on fossil fuels and our contribution to global warming. This is one of my harsher columns, but called for in my opinion. Sources are at the bottom.
Chesapeake Bay: Speake of the devil
Issue date: 7/9/09
Save the Bay! No really, I mean it. Back in 1987, federal and state officials set a target to finish restoring the Chesapeake Bay by 2000, whose value 20 years ago was pegged at $678 billion by University of Maryland economists. Inflation alone would push that value over a trillion dollars. Maybe we were counting on 2000 being the end of the world, but when computers failed to take over and clean the bay themselves, we were forced to set a target of 2010. Whoops.
So now the Environmental Protection Agency and state officials, including a number from Maryland, have gotten serious. They’ve said enough is enough: It’s time to set a target to which leaders can be held accountable. The new deadline for getting the bay off the list of the nation’s most impaired waters is now 2025, with two-year milestone goals sprinkled in between. Governor Martin O’Malley boldly declared Maryland would hit its own nutrient reduction goals by 2020.
O’Malley and every other elected official in Annapolis will tell you they’re for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay. It’s as easy as saying you’re for fighting cancer or for education. A closer look at our own state policies provides a clue as to why despite lawmakers’ happy proclamations on behalf of the bay, it still remains in shambles.
Doesn’t anyone find it ironic that we decided to have the words “Treasure the Chesapeake” engraved on the back of license plates? License plates which happen to be attached to cars running on roads which has sediment pollution runoff that is ruining the Chesapeake. This is symbolic of our problem. Our largest expenditure to affect the bay’s health thus far consists of billions of dollars spent on the maligned InterCounty Connector. This road blows through the Anacostia Watershed, which feeds into the bay. The Maryland Department of Environment (MDE) is now considering granting a permit for the cross-county connector. This new Charles County highway would drive right through the Mattawoman Watershed, which flows into the bay.
Annapolis recently ensured we’ll continue our happy highway construction by weakening a smart growth bill this past session that would have put some teeth behind responsible development and anti-sprawl benchmarks. Poor land-use planning and highway construction have become coordinated catastrophes that make our clean-up deadline of 2025 a flatline. From his policies, it’s tough to tell whether O’Malley’s personal 2020 target is to clean up Maryland’s pollution contribution or finish the bay off once and for all.
The policies’ harmful effects are magnified by MDE dragging its feet on enforcing stormwater management rules passed in early 2007. The Stormwater Management Act has encountered two years worth of deliberations by MDE to figure out what to do with it. This culminated in a “please?” ordinance to county governments and local municipalities to only mitigate the runoff impact of 50 percent of impervious surfaces for redevelopment projects. Half-hearted by both my math and their effort.
News flash to Annapolis and O’Malley: When you build mega-highways across waterways which connect to the bay; when you water down smart growth bills that would encourage and enforce responsible development; when you water down our stormwater management laws so our runoff continues to pollute the bay – you’re not saving the bay. You’re killing it.
Now if only we could fit that onto the back of a license plate.
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
http://www.gazette.net/stories/04102009/polinew200336_32477.shtml (death of smart growth bill)
http://www.bayjournal.com/article.cfm?article=2395 (value of the Bay)
http://www.governor.maryland.gov/pressreleases/090512.asp (O’Malley setting higher goal for Bay)
http://www.cbf.org/Page.aspx?pid=1147 (on Cross County Connector)
http://www.mde.state.md.us/Programs/WaterPrograms/SedimentandStormwater/swm2007.asp (Stormwater management Act, to go to next page to see delays, go down to bottom and check archives)
http://www.mde.state.md.us/assets/document/Model%20Stormwater%20Ordinance%20June%202009.pdf (pg 13 on stormwater management)