- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 24, 2001

ANNAPOLIS Government leaders are not doing enough to restore the health of the Chesapeake Bay, the head of a watchdog group for the nation's largest estuary said yesterday.
"It is time for our leaders to take a stand and get on with saving the Bay before it declines further," said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
In its annual State of the Bay Report released yesterday, the foundation rated the waterway's health at 27 on a scale of zero to 100. That rating, one point less than the Bay scored in the foundation's 2000 report, is a composite of ratings in 13 categories dealing with pollution, habitat and stocks of fish and shellfish.
"The Chesapeake operates at barely more than one-fourth of its potential because water pollution, primarily from excess nitrogen and phosphorus, inhibits overall improvements to the system," the report said.
Mr. Baker blamed the decline on a continuing loss of open land around the Bay and on nutrient pollution, which has reduced the amount of underwater grasses in the Bay and led to a declining blue crab population.
The open land rating fell from 33 to 30 in the latest report, and the crab rating dropped from 46 to 42.
Most other ratings in the report held steady, while ratings for forested buffers, 54, and shad, six, each rose by one point from last year.
Foundation scientists compare the current Bay conditions to the "rich and balanced bay" rated as 100 that Capt. John Smith encountered in the early 1600s. The foundation's lowest rating for the Bay was 23, recorded in 1983.
Mr. Baker said governments have undermined progress in restoring the Bay by extending deadlines for power plants to comply with emission limits, allowing sewage-treatment plants to violate pollution rules and failing to support environmentally friendly farming practices.
The foundation's Virginia executive director, Joseph Maroon, said Virginia ranks 49th in the nation on environmental spending.
"It will be next to impossible to improve the health of the Bay without a substantial increase in state and federal funding," Mr. Maroon said.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening said the report reinforces what the governor has been saying about the Chesapeake.
"Yes, we are making significant progress in restoring the health of the Bay, but we need to further strengthen the entire watershed's commitment to ensuring that we have high air and water quality," Michelle Byrnie said.
Mr. Baker said a "united front" among the six states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed region is crucial to obtain federal support for an $8.5 billion agreement to restore the Bay.
Chesapeake 2000, a multistate agreement signed in June 1999, outlines steps that would raise the Bay's score to 40 by 2010, the report said.
Mr. Baker said the plan would cost 15 cents per watershed resident per day until the year 2010.
"We think the Bay is worth it," he said.

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