- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CHESTERTOWN, Md. — Announcing new goals to help clean the Chesapeake Bay, Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday that the state will seek to cut the kind of pollution produced by fertilizers.

Aiming to reduce nitrogen pollution by 2 1/2 times, the state plans to encourage planting cover crops to diminish agricultural runoff. Cover crops such as barley, canola and kale absorb nitrogen from the soil. The state also plans to create more forested stream buffers.

Speaking to reporters aboard the University of Maryland’s research vessel Rachel Carson on the Bush River, Mr. O’Malley also said the state will set new two-year goals, instead of setting deadlines far into the future when state and local leaders can no longer be held accountable.

“The news for tomorrow is that we’re no longer going to declare goals that happen 10 and 20 years beyond the political life of any public servant,” Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said just before a regional meeting on restoring the nation’s largest estuary.

Officials from Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District will gather for their 26th annual meeting on Tuesday in Mount Vernon. Federal Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson also is scheduled to attend.

Mr. O’Malley said he thinks the EPA will announce a “much more aggressive posture” in managing the entire watershed of the Bay.

Critics say the Bay is a complex ecosystem that is influenced by actions in several states, but no unified effort has been developed to combat pollution because state government authority ends at state borders.

William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, has argued that only the federal government can take charge and direct the action needed to restore the Bay’s waters. Mr. Baker’s organization has called on President Obama to do that.

“We’re very hopeful that the president, either himself or through EPA Administrator [Lisa] Jackson, will say that the Chesapeake Bay restoration is a national priority and order his agencies to do everything in their power to improve it,” said Mr. Baker, who also toured the river with Mr. O’Malley on Monday.

Mr. O’Malley also was joined by Maryland Department of Natural Resources Secretary John Griffin and Maryland Department of the Environment Secretary Shari Wilson on a tour of the Bush and Gunpowder rivers. The two Bay tributaries have showed signs of improvement since upgrades at a nearby sewage treatment plant.

A 2008 University of Maryland study found that water quality in some Chesapeake tributaries is improving, while water in adjacent tributaries is deteriorating. For example, the Bush River in the upper western Bay shows signs of improvement, while other upper Eastern Shore tributaries such as the Sassafras River continue to get worse.

Mr. O’Malley visited the Bush and Gunpowder rivers to stress the importance of letting the public know that progress can be made restoring the Bay’s waters. Mr. O’Malley said sustained restoration of the Bay will be difficult if the public loses faith in a turnaround.

“I think if we keep pounding nails into the coffin of the Bay and saying: ‘She’s dead and she’s never coming back, and it’s all because our elected officials are stupid and cowardly,’ then you’re going to create a self-fulfilling prophecy,” Mr. O’Malley said.

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