Baltimore Sun

Murky Bay cleanup "roadmaps"

Maryland, the District of Columbia and the other five states that drain into the Chesapeake Bay released drafts last week of their plans for accelerating cleanup of the troubled estuary.

Reaction to the restoration "roadmaps" has been slow in coming, partly because of the long holiday weekend, but also because those who've plowed into the nearly 900 pages combined have had a hard time making out exactly what the states are pledging to do when.


"It's so overwhelming that no one can decipher it except those whose ox is getting gored," said Rena Steinzor, a University of Maryland environmental law professor who is head of the Center for Progressive Reform, a Washington think tank.

One thing that is clear is that no state has made a firm pledge to spend more to complete the restoration, even though they're clearly talking about doing more.  All, to varying degrees, seem to look to the federal government to provide the needed largess - or, in Maryland's case, simply to say options are being considered for raising additional funds to pay for upgrading sewage treatment plants and for controlling polluted runoff from city and suburban streets.


There are a lot of good ideas," Tommy Landers, policy advocate for Environment Maryland, said of this state's 170-page plan. But, he added, "it needs more detail about how they're going to enforce pretty much everything they're thinking about doing."

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation called Virginia's 117-page plan "stunningly deficient" in laying out how the state would reduce its share of the bay's nutrient polllution, particularly from farms and urban areas.

New York and Virginia, meanwhile, challenge the scientific basis for the pollution-reduction targets they've been given by the Environmental Protection Agency, and even the federal government's legal authority to impose them.  And both say they lack the resources to make the needed reductions anyway, so the federal government will have to pony up if it expects them to be done by 2025, the latest deadline in the dragged-out restoration effort.

It'll be interesting to see how the EPA handles the challenges presented it by the states' plans and comes up with its own draft of a baywide pollution "diet" by Sept. 24.  There'll be a series of public meetings in every state in late September through October, where people who've plowed through the various plans are invited to give their feedback and suggestions.  Go here to find the scehdule.

(AP photo of Katie Blann, 4, being washed by a wave from the Chesapeake Bay at Sandy Point State Park during Labor Day weekend.)