I have a column out today about the threat of the cross-county connector on Mattawoman Creek, and the implications for the Chesapeake Bay.
Mattawoman: Constructing or destructing?
A week ago, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) announced a bill to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by giving the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to set pollution reduction goals for states whose pollution harms the bay. Federal funding would be cut if those targets aren’t met. The legislation, titled the Bay Ecosystem Restoration Act, would also authorize $2 billion for the states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to spend on cleanup and best practices.
Passing this bill would be a good step, particularly toward actually putting some teeth into regulations by punishing states who slack off. Up until now, the main strategy for saving the Chesapeake Bay has been to fund an exponentially larger broom to clean up our growing mess, oblivious to the concept of preventing the mess in the first place. This could be why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation rated the health of the bay in 2008 a 28 out of 100 — one full point higher than the score in 1998. Ah, the smell of bullshit consistency.
Gov. Martin O’Malley and other state officials have a great opportunity to break the tendency of making the cleanup a national disgrace. Mattawoman Creek in Charles County is one of the most pristine, healthy streams that flows into the Chesapeake bay. It’s also one of the premier fish nurseries on the East Coast, consistently drawing tourism and Bassmaster Tournaments. Charles County government wants to build an extension of a highway called the cross-county connector across the full width of the Mattawoman watershed.
This would no doubt generate thousands of acres of new sprawl and development around the creek, where the 2,200-acre Chapman forest is currently located. Talk about one-upping the Wooded Hillock. The only thing funnier than this plan is Charles County officials arguing that developing over Mattawoman Creek will actually help save it. The Maryland Department of the Environment has to decide whether to approve a permit for this development proposal.
If I was a member of MDE and found this request on my doorstep, the first thing I would do is check to see whether it’s April Fools’ Day. The rejection would be swift. Instead, MDE has been deliberating over the permit for many months, giving serious consideration to a proposal that is seriously bad.
We need more leadership on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay not just by throwing money at the problem, but by enforcing strong standards on development and pollution so pollutants don’t get into the Chesapeake bay in the first place. Cardin has shown that we can count on him. Can the state also count on O’Malley to follow Cardin’s lead?
Past development decisions, such as allowing the construction of the Intercounty Connector, do not inspire confidence. Neither does MDE’s hesitation in rejecting the permit for construction of the cross-county connector, which would lead to the destruction of Mattawoman Creek. With one of the healthiest fish nurseries in the Chesapeake Bay region on the line, reckless development decisions such as paving over a body of water with a highway should lead MDE to a simple conclusion, be it bay or creek.
Why would we want to destroy something good?
Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com