Group calls for better bay restoration effort

December 09, 2008|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,tim.wheeler@baltsun.com

A group of Chesapeake Bay scientists and advocates is calling for new, more aggressive efforts to restore the bay, saying that the current approach has not worked and that the troubled estuary is getting worse.

The group - more than a dozen scientists, policy specialists and activists - presented its recommendations to the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's bay program office in Annapolis on the eve of today's 25th anniversary of the formal launch of the bay restoration effort.

"We believe the voluntary and collaborative approach we have had in place has simply not worked," said Walter Boynton, a veteran scientist at the University of Maryland Chesapeake Bay Laboratory in Solomons.

In a statement, the group said population growth and development have overwhelmed the cleanup progress. Water quality is declining in much of the bay, rather than improving, it pointed out.

The group called for "mandatory, enforceable measures" to reduce nutrient, sediment and toxic pollution, including new land-use legislation and tougher regulation of farms. It also urged the bay states to formally adopt a policy barring any further net losses of forest and wetlands.

Other members include William C. Dennison, a vice president at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science; Howard Ernst, a bay advocate and associate professor at the Naval Academy; and Robert J. Etgen, executive director of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy.

Jeff Lape, director of the EPA bay program, said bay-state governors and federal officials have acknowledged the lack of progress.

"There has been a lot of good work for bay restoration," he said. "Despite that work, the bay's health is not anywhere near where it needs to be." He pledged to work "in partnership" to find new strategies.

The group's statement was drafted after an all-day meeting in Annapolis last week organized by Gerald Winegrad, a former legislator and outspoken bay advocate. He and several others endorsing the statement were present when the bay restoration agreement was signed Dec. 9, 1983.

Bay-state governors and federal officials have acknowledged that they will not meet the pollution reduction goals by 2010. At a meeting this month, they pledged to set short-term cleanup goals and an ultimate deadline for restoring the bay.

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