O'Malley launches bay analysis program

BayStat's goal is to monitor Chesapeake for environmental issues, allocate funds effectively

March 03, 2007|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley launched BayStat yesterday, using the management tools that track pothole repairs in Baltimore to monitor nitrogen levels, oyster beds and dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay.

O'Malley won national awards for his CityStat performance management system when he was mayor, and he is now trying to bring that data analysis technique to the state level. He said the complexity of trying to heal the bay makes comprehensive, regular analysis all the more essential.

"We have a lot of individual bay programs and a lot of individual bay constituencies," O'Malley said. "What we have yet to be able to do is to integrate that into a single system of measuring performance."

Donald F. Boesch, president of the University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, began the meeting with a historical overview of pollution in the bay and efforts to clean it up.

He said the oxygen-free dead zones in the bay, the decline of bay grasses and the decimation of the oyster population are the result of hundreds of years of human intervention and that the path to restoration would be difficult, complicated and unpredictable.

"The good news is we have a lot of measurements in place," Boesch said. "We know what the long term trends are. But we have not been using those ... to make progress."

O'Malley brought representatives of the departments of Agriculture, Environment, Natural Resources, Planning, and Budget and Management to the meeting, which was closed to the public after Boesch's introductory remarks.

The BayStat plan calls for the departments and for representatives of bay interest groups to gather regularly to examine data about pollutant levels and other indicators of the bay's health in hopes of focusing the state's resources most effectively.

For example, the analysis could help the state better determine how to spend limited land preservation funds to best protect tributaries that feed into the bay, O'Malley said.

The effort, O'Malley promised, will be sustained and comprehensive.

"It's going to be relentless," O'Malley told his cabinet secretaries. "Not to annoy you but to see what we can to do change our actions to improve outcomes."

andy.green@baltsun.com

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