Path to a Purer Chesapeake

December 07, 1990

Without tighter management of growth in Maryland, the Chesapeake Bay will continue to lose its health and productivity. The Governor's Commission on Growth in the Chesapeake Bay Region targets the problem and recommends laws that could limit future damage to the bay. It is a blueprint for more efficient planning of development and the use of land.

Without it, restrictions such as the Critical Areas Law will fail to provide sufficient protection to revitalize the bay and its watershed. Poisonous fumes from millions of cars that criss-cross the Chesapeake region will grow. Natural habitats will be destroyed along with critical open spaces as more homes, businesses and shopping centers are built haphazardly.

A continuation of rampant, unfocused growth will lead to the decimation of creeks, flood plains and inland wetlands -- key elements in the Chesapeake's delicate ecological system that provide a network that sponges impurities from storm runoff before it reaches the bay and fouls its waters.

The package of legislation offered by the commission, headed by former Rep. Michael D. Barnes, aims at protecting the bay by concentrating growth sensibly in each county. It would also protect important resources, including 100-year flood plains; intermittent and perennial streams and their buffers; critical habitats; valuable and endangered animal species, and steep slopes that, once lost, create paths for storm run-off.

The commission's plans still are not final. Members will hold a lengthy public hearing Dec. 15 before modifying its report and sending it along to the governor and General Assembly.

Efforts to save the bay are going on throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. The Barnes commission report gives Maryland an opportunity to make a far-reaching and creative contribution that will benefit future generations.

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