Governor begins campaign for anti-Pfiesteria plan Glendening stresses urgency of controlling runoff of nutrients

January 25, 1998|By Taylor Lincoln | Taylor Lincoln,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

In a speech before the second annual meeting of Maryland "tributary teams" yesterday, Gov. Parris N. Glendening made his first public appeal for support of the $41.5 million plan to combat Pfiesteria he announced last week.

The speech, dubbed the "State of the Bay," was in part a celebration of the efforts of the tributary teams, which were established by Glendening two years ago to help clean watersheds feeding the Chesapeake Bay.

But Glendening's strongest comments stressed the urgency of combating excessive phosphorus and nitrogen runoff, which is suspected of causing the Pfiesteria outbreaks that killed thousands of fish and closed several Eastern Shore waterways last summer.

"We cannot wait. This past summer, the crisis surrounding toxic Pfiesteria very sharply reminded us of the link between the land and our water, and the effect that water quality has on our health and on the economy," he said in the speech at the University of Maryland, College Park.

"If we do not change our behavior, outbreaks of toxic Pfiesteria will continue year after year," he said. "We must put an aggressive, fair and comprehensive plan into place now."

The governor's program, largely derived from the recommendations of a citizens commission chaired by former Gov. Harry R. Hughes, has drawn opposition from agricultural interests for its stipulation that farmers failing to implement nutrient-runoff plans by 2002 will face fines.

But, just as when he announced the plan during his State of the State address, Glendening attempted to allay fears that farmers were being targeted.

"Farming is the preferred land use, especially on the Eastern Shore, and we do not want to put an unnecessary economic burden on [farmers]," he said, noting that the plan calls for tax credits and technical assistance to the agriculture and poultry industries that produce much of the phosphorus and nitrogen seeping into the bay.

"The state will be a full financial partner," he said.

The governor held firm to the need for action, citing North Carolina, which he said is facing its eighth consecutive year of Pfiesteria outbreaks, and he raised the specter that the microbe could spread to other state waterways if left unchecked.

"Think about the impact if Pfiesteria spreads into the back bays," he said. "It would have a devastating effect on our economy, not just on watermen but on the tourist industry and on retail sales throughout the state."

Glendening also championed education to develop a new "environmental ethos" in the state.

He pointed to an environmental summit of students and teachers to be held in Baltimore May 7 and said the state would conduct an outreach effort to educate the public on proper use of lawn fertilizers.

Glendening also took the opportunity to promote Smart Growth legislation passed last year. The initiative aims to preserve open spaces by discouraging public expenditures on roads and other infrastructure improvements necessitated by development in rural areas.

After the address, Glendening estimated that he would give more than two dozen speeches in support of the anti-Pfiesteria plan in coming months. "I am very much afraid of the old saying, 'Out of sight, out of mind,' " he said, noting that the microorganism is dormant in cold weather.

Pub Date: 1/25/98

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