Md. to hold meeting on saving the bay Input sought from citizens of 3 counties

July 06, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Carroll County residents will gather tonight with people from Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties to discuss what they can do to save the Chesapeake Bay.

The meeting will be a strategy session covering the Patapsco-Back River Basin and its tributaries. It is part of a series of 10 meetings sponsored by the state to gather citizens' comments on how to reduce the amounts of phosphorus and nitrogen flowing into the bay.

Tonight's meeting will begin at 7:30 at Catonsville Community College's Bern Theater, 800 S. Rolling Road, Catonsville.

Carroll's portion of the basin lies southeast of Parr's Ridge, which runs diagonally through Carroll County. The Carroll area includes Westminster, Freedom, Sykesville and Finksburg.

At two previous meetings, residents discussed the Upper Western Shore watershed and the Upper Potomac watershed, both of which include parts of Carroll County.

State officials eventually will combine the residents' suggestions into a plan to meet the state's goal of a 40 percent reduction in nutrients by the year 2000.

Maryland's Department of the Environment, Department of Agriculture, Department of Natural Resources, Office of Planning, the governor's office and the University of Maryland are working together to develop the plan.

"We don't want this to be a paper exercise," said Robert E. Magnien, chief of the Maryland Department of the Environment's Chesapeake Bay Projects Division. "We want these to be based on their ability to be implemented."

Excess nitrogen and phosphorus harm the bay by feeding algae that reproduce and eventually cloud the water. Aquatic vegetation dies from a lack of light, leaving fish and other bay life little to eat and no place to lay eggs.

Also, the overgrown algae uses up much of the water's oxygen, which eventually suffocates the fish and other aquatic life.

Since 1987, state officials have been working to meet the reduction goals by concentrating their efforts on "point sources" of nutrient pollution, such as wastewater treatment plants.

Now, officials are working to reduce "nonpoint sources" of pollution from farms, suburban lawns, golf courses and other places where excess fertilizer may wash into local streams.

"We're one-third to halfway to our goal," Mr. Magnien told a group of Carroll County planners, extension agency employees, members of the farm community and other environmentalists last month.

"Unfortunately, the last two-thirds to one-half is the most difficult [to achieve]. This now comes down to folks like you. We need a lot of your help and suggestions."

Meetings like the one tonight open with a state presentation about the plan.

Participants then break into groups to make suggestions and discuss ideas about helping the bay.

Group members then come together at the end and share what they have learned and discussed.

Planners are about two-thirds through the process that began with preliminary meetings in early 1992.

They are now working on specific options for reducing pollution and will present the options to the governor next fall.

"We had initially thought by August of this year we'd have a fairly definite strategy," said Mr. Magnien. "It's probably going to take a little longer than that."

Scientists have determined that 21.997 million pounds of nitrogen and 1.254 million pounds of phosphorus enter the bay each year from the Patapsco-Back River watershed.

In contrast, 970,000 pounds of nitrogen and 10,000 pounds of phosphorus entered the bay each year

when the state was undeveloped about 350 years ago, the Department of Environment says.

The state's goal is to have no more than 13.586 million pounds of nitrogen and 756,000 pounds of phosphorus entering the bay annually by 2000.

Although these levels are not as low as amount of nitrogen and phosphorus that entered the bay when Maryland was undeveloped, it is low enough to help the bay sustain life.

Goals for the other watersheds are:

* Upper Potomac -- reduce nitrogen levels from 13.279 million pounds per year to 10.125 million pounds per year, and reduce phosphorus levels from 1.440 million pounds per year to 960,000 pounds per year.

Undeveloped levels in this watershed were 5.394 million pounds of nitrogen and 239,000 pounds of phosphorus each year.

* Upper Western Shore -- reduce nitrogen levels from 5.823 million pounds per year to 4.149 million pounds per year, and reduce phosphorus levels from 526,000 pounds per year to 324,000 pounds per year.

Undeveloped levels in this watershed were 1.637 million pounds of nitrogen and 20,000 pounds of phosphorus each year.

Information: 848-4611 or 848-2780.

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