Save the Bay? It's So Far Away!

April 05, 1994

As a retirement gift to Maryland, Senator Frederick C. Malkus is proposing to apply the state's Chesapeake Bay Critical Areas law to landlocked counties such as Carroll County, as well as those waterfront jurisdictions covered by the law.

"If [Carroll's] waters run into the Chesapeake Bay, they should have the same law as Dorchester County," reasoned the veteran Eastern Shore senator, who is voluntarily leaving the legislature after serving 47 years.

His point is well taken. What is the sense of having development controls on 16 counties and Baltimore City if Maryland's other counties continue development practices that destroy the ecological integrity of the bay? That very reason explains why then-Gov. Harry R. Hughes and Gov. William Donald Schaefer labored to include Pennsylvania in compacts designed to preserve the bay. Even though the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay isn't anywhere near Pennsylvania, the drainage of the Susquehanna River through Maryland's neighbor to the north has tremendous impact on the estuary's health.

Carroll doesn't have a shoreline on the bay, but Big Pipe Creek, Morgan Run, Bear Run and Gillis Falls all eventually empty into the Chesapeake. Sediments and nutrients in these streams are as destructive as the sediments and nutrients that flow into the bay from Eastern Shore counties.

Senator Malkus' motivation for pushing his plan, unfortunately, has less to do with protecting the bay and more to do with retribution. He would like to see the same set of development restrictions that impact his bayside constituency applied to inland property owners. If some of the inland counties were so affected, he surmises, support for the law would be undercut.

Senator Malkus hopes that because Carroll and other inland counties are far from the Chesapeake, residents will instinctively oppose any expansion of the critical areas legislation. Yet many of the sedimentation controls and forest conservation measures already on Carroll County's books may be accomplishing the goals of the critical areas program. Whether there is a need to extend the critical areas legislation as Senator Malkus proposes is open to debate.

Nevertheless, all Marylanders need to keep in mind that most of the state's streams drain into the bay. If we are to continue feasting on rockfish, crabs and oysters, even landlocked residents need to worry about the bay's health.

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