State funds to target runoff pollution

Local governments, nonprofits urged to apply for $25 million

June 05, 2008|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN REPORTER

The O'Malley administration plans to use Maryland's new Chesapeake Bay cleanup fund to target runoff pollution into some of the state's smaller rivers, including the Corsica and the Wye.

The Department of Natural Resources plans today to ask local governments and nonprofit organizations to start applying for money from the $25 million fund established by the General Assembly.

Data analysis

The state's BayStat program, using computerized analysis of scientific data, will determine which pollution-control proposals get the money, said John R. Griffin, natural resources secretary.

"We are never going to have enough resources to cover all of our issues in the bay. But we will try to be smart and target what works," he said.

"This is an opportunity to change the way we do business and show better results," said Griffin.

'Green Fund'

If identifying projects using BayStat data proves to reduce pollution, the administration might eventually funnel all of the state's existing bay-related funds through the statistical analysis, Griffin said.

The $25 million comes from what was once called the "Green Fund," later renamed the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund.

The program was approved by the General Assembly last fall to use rental car and motor fuel tax money to pay for projects to control runoff pollution from farms and urban areas.

The fund was cut in half, to $25 million, in its first year as officials took steps to balance the budget.

The state has identified 13 watersheds on the Eastern and Western shores as "high priorities" to receive the money.

These include the Corsica, Little Patuxent, Lower Chester, Lower Choptank, Magothy and Sassafras rivers, and Longford Creek.

Steps for farmers

In those areas, the state would like to fund projects by local governments and nonprofit groups to encourage farmers to plant alternative crops, such as switchgrass, that require less fertilizer; refrain from using fertilizer while planting cover crops in the offseason; use precision equipment that wastes less fertilizer and stop planting in highly eroded areas, among other steps.

In urban areas, local governments can apply for money to reduce runoff from lawns and blacktop.

The proposals by local governments and nonprofits are due by Aug. 29.

The state will decide by the end of October which are to receive funds.

State Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, who represents Prince George's County and is chairman of the Senate's subcommittee on the environment, said using BayStat to evaluate proposals is better than if the legislation had earmarked funds based on political considerations.

tom.pelton@baltsun.com

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