- The Washington Times - Friday, April 17, 2009

Maryland residents say cleaning the Chesapeake Bay is more important than slowing development, reducing air pollution or the issue of global warming, according to the results of a poll to be released Friday by a Bay advocacy group.

“There’s strong public support for bolder actions by government, whether through increased environmental spending or tighter regulations to address water pollution,” said Allen Hance, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which commissioned the poll.

Eighty-six percent of Marylanders said that cleaning the Chesapeake was “extremely important” or “very important” to them. That compares with just 53 percent who said global warming was important to them.

Sixty-eight percent of those questioned said they were willing to pay more taxes if it meant that the money would go to clean up the Bay. However, the same percentage said their taxes were already too high, and 50 percent said the state government wastes a lot of money.

“Most people support what I would understand as a more activist role for government understood in terms of effective regulation, and increased public spending on water quality issues,” Mr. Hance said.

The survey, conducted by pollster OpinionWorks in November, questioned 1,015 random Maryland residents and has a 3.1 percentage point margin of error.

Mr. Hance said that the study shows Marylanders don’t see the economy and the environment as an “either/or,” which he said is how the two are usually characterized.

Maryland currently puts more than $100 million per year toward restoring the Bay. In addition to help from the state government, Mr. Hance said he hopes there will be a “refocusing of attention” on the Chesapeake Bay on a “federal policy level.”

Shaun Adamec, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley, said the governor agrees with citizens who place such a high priority on cleaning up the Chesapeake.

He said the BayStat program, which measures contributing factors to the health of the Bay, has been available online to citizens. The program has a solution section that allows people to see how they can help turn the trend around.

The O’Malley administration’s 2010 budget includes $165 million in Bay restoration funds, $18 million for “cover crops” that prevent soil erosion and take up excess nutrients before they can run off into the Bay. The budget also contains $60 million for Program Open Space and agricultural land preservation.

“I’m not sure if [cleaning the Bay] is a matter of funding,” said Mr. Adamec. “When it comes down to it, the better approach is to look at how we can do this differently.”

He said the O’Malley administration is “adopting a more attainable and realistic approach” to cleaning up the Bay, adding that Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, is collaborating with Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, also a Democrat, and adopting “two-year milestones” to better mark progress in the Bay’s restoration.

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