U.S. commits to reducing bay pollution 20 agencies to cooperate on runoff from federal land

November 04, 1998|By Heather Dewar | Heather Dewar,SUN STAFF

The U.S. government pledges to work harder to reduce Chesapeake Bay pollution coming from the 2.2 million acres of federal land in the bay's watershed, under a 20-agency agreement to be announced at a historic fort on the Anacostia River tomorrow.

The agencies say they'll also help Maryland and other states tackle scientific questions that make it difficult to carry out existing bay cleanup plans, focusing on such thorny problems as what technologies work best at preventing farm runoff and how changes in climate might affect the bay.

"It's a new federal commitment to the Chesapeake Bay," said Kate Nauten, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program.

The commitment, however, comes without a guarantee of any extra cash to carry it out, said Peter Marx, associate director of the EPA's bay program. "It's going to be up to each individual agency to determine how they're going to implement this and whether they're going to allocate additional resources to it," Marx said.

The EPA will take the lead on most of the government's efforts. The initiatives are scheduled to be announced by EPA Administrator Carol M. Browner, with representatives from 19 other federal agencies, at Fort McNair in Washington.

Some items on the government's pledge list mirror steps being taken by states, local governments and private landowners in the bay area. For example, the government agencies have agreed to write plans for reducing the fertilizers flowing into the bay from farm fields, golf courses, parade grounds and construction sites on federal lands by 2000. A new Maryland law requires farmers to develop such plans by 2005; new federal regulations require big animal feedlots to have the plans as early as 2002.

One initiative could affect road-building projects -- like the long-debated Intercounty Connector between Laurel and Gaithersburg -- which can trigger bitter disputes about their environmental effects. Federal highway administrators agreed to help find money for research into new roads' impacts on development, air pollution and polluted runoff into the bay.

The federal agencies have also pledged to create 100 acres of wetlands per year on their lands; to open 200 more miles of bay shoreline -- much of it on military bases -- to the public; to restore 200 miles of forest buffers by 2010; and to implement "Smart Growth" principles, similar to those in Maryland law that steer new development to areas that are already built up.

Pub Date: 11/04/98

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