December 9, 2008

Happy 25th Anniversary, Chesapeake Bay

Center for a Livable Future

Center for a Livable Future

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Chesapeake Bay restoration effort. In the two and half decades since the landmark Bay action agenda was agreed to, Maryland’s watershed clean up initiative has received mixed reviews on its success. As the Washington Post noted, “Despite a quarter-century of work, the bay’s biggest problem — pollution-driven “dead zones,” where fish and crabs can’t breathe — has not significantly improved.” Yet there are important environmental improvement initiatives on the way.

The Post’s editorial page yesterday hailed Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley’s efforts to protect the Chesapeake by limiting further development along the Maryland shoreline and enacting new measures limiting agriculture runoff from chicken farms, the leading source of harmful nitrogen and phosphorous found in the Bay.

Each year in Maryland alone, chickens produce about 650 million pounds of manure. New regulations that go into effect in January will enforce how large chicken farms dispose of their waste. Depending on a farm’s square footage of chicken housing, large farms will need a permit to handle manure or a certified waste management plan that is subject to inspection. New regulations limiting how close manure piles can be to streams and ditches and how long such piles can be kept on a property will also go into effect.

The second piece of the O’Malley effort currently pending approval is a proposal for the state to buy nearly 20 miles of Maryland shoreline along the Potomac River. The state plans to restrict development and preserve this land in as publicly accessible beaches, trails and parks, a move that will protect the coastal ecosystem. In conjunction with the land preservation proposal, the Governor launched GreenPrint, an interactive online map highlighting Maryland’s ecologically valuable lands.

While all of this is good news for health of the Bay, many advocates are using today’s anniversary to call for redoubled efforts to address air and water pollution in Maryland, action they say is critical to protect the Bay for the next 25 years.

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