699,000 acres developedin Va.

State leads region in building in Chesapeake Bay watershed since 1982

April 16, 2000

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia has lost 699,000 acres in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to development since 1982, more than any other bay state.

New federal figures show that 699,000 acres of Virginia land that drains into the Chesapeake were developed in the years from 1982 to 1997.

Pennsylvania was next with 619,000 acres, and Maryland lost 376,000 acres in the same period.

As a percentage of total acres, Virginia is in the middle. Maryland lost 7.8 percent of its watershed to development, compared with 6.5 percent in Virginia and 4.6 percent in Pennsylvania.

The new figures could increase pressure on Virginia to accept growth controls that Maryland and Pennsylvania have already endorsed.

In December, Virginia was the only bay state to oppose a proposal for each state to reduce rural land development by 30 percent.

Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening criticized the stance of Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore's administration.

"We cannot protect the bay unless we stop the sprawl," Glendening told Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley at the December meeting.

Woodley has said Virginia cannot commit to a specific numeric goal because land-use decisions in Virginia are made at the local level.

He has also defended the state's record, saying that Virginia has less developed land in the watershed than either Maryland or Pennsylvania.

But the new federal figures show that Virginia does indeed rate better than Maryland, but worse than Pennsylvania.

Those numbers show that 12 percent of Virginia's watershed was developed as of 1997, compared to 17 percent in Maryland and 10.6 percent in Pennsylvania.

The numbers come from a survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Ann Swanson, director of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which is composed mainly of legislators from the three bay states, said the new figures show the threat posed by land conversion.

"Our challenge is to figure out a way to address growth that gets to the needs of all three states," Swanson said.

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