Sarbanes proposes panel for bay money

Commission would focus on funds to curb nutrients

November 20, 2003|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

Sen. Paul. S. Sarbanes proposed yesterday creation of a federal panel to find new sources of money to reduce nutrient pollution into the Chesapeake Bay.

Sarbanes' legislation would create a 21-member Blue Ribbon Commission on Chesapeake Bay Nutrient Pollution Control Financing to focus on curbing nitrogen and phosphorus runoff from sewage treatment plants, fertilized farmland and storm water in urban and suburban areas.

"Our scientific and technical understanding of what needs to be done to reduce excess nutrients going into the bay serves as a model for the nation," he said in a statement introducing the measure to the Senate. "Yet these practices cannot be implemented without sufficient funding, and current estimates suggest that a doubling of nutrient reduction efforts to date will be required."

Nutrients cause algae blooms in the summer and deplete the bay's oxygen, creating areas of water unhealthy for marine life.

The states in the bay watershed have agreed to significantly reduce the amount of nutrients that flow into the bay by the end of this decade, but concerns have been raised about costs associated with the cuts.

This year, a Chesapeake Bay Commission report estimated that $19 billion is needed for bay restoration - about $13 billion more than state and federal agencies have committed. That includes a $9.4 billion gap in funding needed to improve water quality.

The Sarbanes proposal drew support from his fellow Maryland Democrat, Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, as well as Virginia's two Republican senators.

The commission, which would have a year to report back to the president and Congress, would include representatives of the bay watershed states, as well as members appointed by the Environmental Protection Agency administrator.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. backed the proposed commission yesterday.

"This legislation is consistent with the administration's No. 1 environmental priority of reducing nutrient pollution in the Chesapeake Bay," said spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver.

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