The Dernogalizer

March 23, 2010

Column on the Environmentally Destructive… University of Maryland Co-Sponsored…Tech Center in Charles County

Believe it or not, I wasn’t angry or bitter when I wrote this column in the Diamondback.

In Charles County, there’s a proposed development called Indian Head Science and Technology Park. This development will span 277 acres, all on forested land, including a chunk of land in Chapman State Park, which surrounds Mattawoman Creek. Mattawoman Creek is one of the most pristine, healthy streams that flow into the Chesapeake Bay. It’s also one of the premier fish nurseries on the East Coast. As part of the development, there are at least five planned road crossings of the stream valley, which the Army Corps of Engineers says is crucial to protect for the sake of the Mattawoman.

A big part of this industrial park development will be host to the Energetics Technology Center. The point of the center will be the research and development of explosives, propellants and pyrotechnics. A look at the center’s about page says it’s a spin-off of a similar center at this university. Scroll a little further down, and you’ll find this center is a collaboration of many of the same partners as the last one, including this university right smack at the top. The Tech Center’s brochure lists the university as a key partner in making this whole entity work.

We all come here to learn, but I don’t just mean in classes. We learn outside the classroom from the student groups we join, the friends we win and lose and most importantly from the mistakes we make. What about our university administration? What about university President Dan Mote, departing from his position in August after leading the university for more than a decade?

On the surface, Mote’s environmental record is admirable. He signed the President’s Climate Commitment and set in motion an action plan to reduce emissions, make buildings more energy efficient and increase the usage of renewable energy. But I think it’s all showmanship to bolster our image.

When students and faculty did a little digging, they found last year that the university was planning to relocate facilities from East Campus onto a 22.4-acre forested area known as the Wooded Hillock. We know how that ended: Despite the administration’s insistence that it was an appropriate sacrifice to cut down part of a forest because East Campus was greener than leprechauns with envy, the activists won the day.

In February, I listened to university alumnus Michael Martin talk about how when he was a student here 10 years ago, he was part of a fight to prevent the university from relocating greenhouses to wetlands by what is now Comcast Center. It was a story that shockingly paralleled the Wooded Hillock controversy, with the administration denying that the wetlands were environmentally sensitive, dragging its feet and eventually balking under the pressure.

It made me wonder when they decided to relocate facilities from East Campus, whether they remembered what had happened before. Didn’t they learn their lesson? It made me doubt the sincerity of the administration when they talk about the importance of environmental stewardship.

Dig a little beneath the surface once more, and you’ll find another pending local environmental catastrophe with our fingerprints all over the scene of the crime. If Mote was serious about sustainability, we’d never be in this partnership.

We all come here to learn. Mote came. He saw. He learned nothing.

Matt Dernoga is a senior government and politics major. He can be reached at dernoga at umdbk dot com.

December 3, 2009

Good News on the Mattawoman

I’ve written multiple columns and blog posts about saving Mattawoman Creek by preventing the construction of the Cross County Connector, a highway which would cut across the Creek.  You can find out more information on this issue from this post and this column.  I’ve just gotten an e-mail from the Sierra Club saying the state’s decision on whether or not to issue the permit for this road has been postponed to April for a third time, insisting on greater details the impact of the highway would have on two endangered species.  Below is the e-mail.

Dear Sierrans and Friends of the Mattawoman,

I just wanted to get to you quickly to let you know the good news.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has just postponed its Dec. 1st

decision on the Charles County Connector. (This is the unnecessary highway that

would cut across the upper Mattawoman, bringing with it sprawl development which

would effectively kill the river’s sensitive species.)

MDE is hearing our environmental objections. In its letter to Charles county,

MDE insists that the county complete studies of the impact of the highway on two

endangered species in the wetlands it would destroy. It postpones the decision

until an undetermined date in the spring of 2010. It’s the third time that MDE

has had to push the decision back.

This is just a postponement, but it gives us time to involve more citizens and

to let the state government know that protecting the Mattawoman is essential to

protecting the Bay. We’ll be in touch about next steps…

Thanks for doing your part.

Alana Wase

Maryland Chapter Conservation Program Coordinator

P.S. Here’s a blog where you read about the postponement and comment

October 27, 2009

Column on Saving Mattawoman Creek

Filed under: MD Politics,Sprawl — Matt Dernoga @ 1:17 pm
Tags: ,

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

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