Forum Crowd Urges Stronger Action To Save Bay


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August 13, 2009|By Tim Wheeler | Tim Wheeler,

It was standing room only Tuesday night at the town hall meeting in Annapolis, and feelings ran high.

This forum wasn't about health insurance reform, but about restoring the Chesapeake Bay. People were concerned, worried, even upset. Voices were raised, but no one got shouted down, not even the representative of the Obama administration who spoke - not even when he suggested that more regulations might be needed to bring the bay back to vitality.

"We have to look at game-changing solutions," said J. Charles Fox, special adviser to the Environmental Protection Agency administrator for the bay.

Fox drew applause. The crowd of about 350 was not demanding that the federal government keep its hands off the bay. People wanted more, not less, federal muscle to stem a rising tide of pollution from population growth and development. Speakers complained about lack of local and state enforcement of laws and regulations to prevent sediment and stormwater pollution, as well as an unwillingness to crack down on illegal waterfront building and clearing.

"Where are you guys?" demanded Paul Spadaro of the Magothy River Association, which has waged a long-running and so-far fruitless legal battle over a home built on Little Dobbin Island in the river. Though environmentalists contend the development is counter to the state's Critical Area law meant to protect the bay from harmful waterfront building, Anne Arundel County has allowed the residence, in some cases issuing approvals for work already done.

Others complained about waterfront development in Annapolis, which they say has stripped vegetation to the water's edge on a tributary of the Severn River.

"Every time it rains, streams of sediment pour into Saltworks Creek," complained Fred Kelly, the Severn Riverkeeper. He said Anne Arundel County improperly approved the development with inadequate runoff controls and now won't inspect the damage. The Severn, he noted, flows through the state capital on its way to the bay.

"If we can't clean up the capital river of the state of Maryland, what the hell are we doing here?" he asked.

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