Panel named to raise $11 billion by 2010 for bay's restoration

March 12, 2004|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Imagine this assignment: Find a way to raise $11 billion by 2010.

That's the chore assigned to a 15-member Chesapeake Bay watershed finance panel appointed yesterday by the Chesapeake Executive Council.

The group must come up with recommendations for financing bay restoration efforts by 2010 because state and federal officials have set that year for meeting bay cleanup targets. Their recommendations are due by the end of the year.

Panel members include a former interior secretary, a former governor, financial and economic experts, and officials with experience in agriculture, air quality and funding for wastewater treatment plants.

"This is not a business-as-usual time for us. We've got to think outside the box to come up with not only innovative financing methods, but innovative ways to cut the costs," said Rebecca Hanmer, head of the Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program, which coordinates federal and state cleanup efforts.

The bay's cleanup cost is estimated at $19 billion. About $8 billion of that has been approved in government-funded sewage treatment improvements and other projects.

Panel members expect to discuss several measures, including bonds that would finance the cleanup and land-use policies that would reduce cleanup costs.

"I imagine anything and everything will be fair game," said William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and a member of the new committee.

Those appointed yesterday include Bruce Babbitt, interior secretary under President Bill Clinton; former Virginia Gov. Gerald. L. Baliles; Jim Perdue, chairman of Perdue Farms Inc.; and Maryland Del. James W. Hubbard, a Bowie Democrat.

The panel will hold its first meeting March 30 and will meet three or four times before making its recommendations.

The panel's work is separate from initiatives announced by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to raise money for the bay cleanup, including a proposed $2.50 a household monthly sewer use fee to pay for improvements at 66 large treatment plants that dump nutrients into the bay.

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