- The Washington Times - Friday, September 22, 2006

STEVENSVILLE, Md. — Maryland and Virginia’s governors joined D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams yesterday at the Chesapeake Executive Council’s annual meeting to discuss ongoing commitments to protecting and restoring the Chesapeake Bay.

“While we have made great progress over the past six years, we recognize the need to do more, quickly, especially in light of … the fact that more than 175,000 new people are moving to the watershed each year,” said Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican running for re-election, has in his campaign prominently touted his commitment to restoring the Bay, the largest estuary in the country with more than 8,000 miles of shoreline.

The council acknowledged at the meeting the need for more conservation money in the 2007 Farm Bill and vowed to sharply reduce the amount of phosphorus used in residential lawn-care products by 2009.

The resolution does not require companies to reduce the levels of phosphorus in their lawn-care and pesticide products. However, Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. and Lebanon Seaboard announced yesterday they would start reducing the amount of phosphorus in their products this fall.

The council also adopted initiatives to identify where forests are most needed for water-quality protection and established goals for forest conservation.

The joint effort that started six years ago is known as Chesapeake 2000 and includes the governor of Pennsylvania and the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

Council members also said they must get the agricultural and farming industries more involved in water conservation and restoration to reach their goals in 2010.

“The magnitude of the task is huge, but we’ve seen some definite improvement in the past couple of years,” said Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat. “This is very much a relationship between D.C., Maryland and Virginia and Pennsylvania that regardless of the party in charge of the legislature or the governor’s office we have a momentum going that will really makes this happen.”

The Bay’s condition has been in part attributed to overenrichment of nutrients, especially phosphorus and nitrogen.

Each year, residents along the watershed use millions of pounds of nitrogen and phosphorus in lawn-care products. Nutrients not absorbed by the soil and plants seep into the watershed, according to most environmentalists.

The result is a sharp growth in algae, which blocks sunlight from getting to the underwater Bay grasses. It also leads to a cycle in which oxygen levels decrease and fish either die or move where suitable levels of oxygen exist.

Last year, the council concentrated on agriculture, adopting a strategy to boost efforts to reduce animal-waste runoff into the watershed.

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