- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2000

ANNAPOLIS State, District of Columbia and federal officials stood on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay yesterday and declared that a new agreement aimed at restoring water quality in the basin will also help contain suburban sprawl.

A lineup of political heavyweights, headed by Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening, hailed the agreement the third such regional accord since 1983 as a "milestone."

"A lot of people are talking about smart growth, but this is the first-ever state-federal agreement acknowledging a need to do something about it," said Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Carol M. Browner, who wedged the event between Capitol Hill appearances to testify on gasoline prices and other issues.

Although staffers said it had long been on his schedule, Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, a Republican, didn't attend and sent his natural resources secretary, John Paul Woodley, instead.

That set spectators questioning whether Mr. Gilmore had snubbed Mr. Glendening, a Democrat, with whom he has differed sharply on growth issues from land and water use to transportation.

Mr. Glendening's office said Mr. Gilmore called around 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to say he would not attend.

Virginia officials said Mr. Gilmore was detained in Richmond to deal with last-minute fiscal details before the budget year closes Friday.

"Anybody who knows Governor Gilmore knows he doesn't send Cabinet secretaries to say things he wouldn't say himself," Mr. Woodley said.

Mr. Gilmore insisted and prevailed on changing the agreement to commit the region, rather than each jurisdiction, to reducing by 30 percent in 12 years the rate farm and woodlands are converted to residential and commercial development.

Mr. Woodley declined to predict how much Virginia would reduce its sprawl rate.

Part of the remaining 18 months of the Gilmore administration will be spent trying to measure and determine Virginia's rate of sprawl, Mr. Woodley said, because U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates are suspected of containing errors.

Those estimates pegged Virginia's sprawl rate at 200 percent, Maryland's at 300 percent and Pennsylvania's at 500 percent.

Whatever the rates, some Maryland Republicans said they have mixed feelings about the agreement and the unequal burden it could put on their state.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Republican whip and a nurseryman from the Eastern Shore, said he supports conservation measures if people are going to be reimbursed for efforts such as taking their land out of production. However, Mr. Stoltzfus said he's concerned "that Maryland could wind up doing more with sticks than with carrots" given its record of "aggressive environmental measures."

Sierra Club Virginia Chapter Director Glen Besa said he is encouraged by the agreement, but not by Virginia's environmental record or Mr. Woodley's statement that local leaders would play an important role in curbing sprawl.

"Virginia has taken powers to manage growth away from local government," Mr. Besa said. "It's up to us to call on the governor to take real steps to do so."

Tuesday, however, Mr. Gilmore took a major step toward preserving the Bay's blue-crab population by expanding a sanctuary throughout the deepest waters in a wide swath through Virginia's part of the estuary.

That move has not endeared him to the seafood industry, but it moves the state closer to a 2001 goal of the agreement establishing target blue-crab harvests.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, also canceled plans to attend the meeting yesterday, but he recently signed a new law aimed at curbing sprawl in his state.

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams now takes over for Mr. Glendening as chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Executive Council.

Other agreement goals include:

• By 2005, increasing designated "water trails" by 500 miles.

• By 2010, preserving 20 percent of the Bay's watershed from development.

• By 2010, increasing native oysters to numbers 10 times above their 1994 levels.

• By 2010, eliminating zones where pollutants are allowed to be dumped to achieve dilution.

• By 2010, restoring 25,000 acres of wetlands.

• By 2010, rehabilitating 1,050 "brownfield" sites to productive use.

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