(Staff photo by Kim Hairston )
A coalition of environmental groups has handed out mixed grades for the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plans every county in Maryland prepared late last year.
The plans, submitted to the state Department of the Environment, are part of a detailed statewide bay restoration plan the state was required to give the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last month. EPA has prescribed a "pollution diet" for Maryland and the other five states that drain into the Chesapeake, requiring them to lay out steps they'll take by 2025 to reduce nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment fouling the bay's waters.
MDE submitted its latest draft plan on Jan. 26 and is seeking public comments until March 9. Counties have until July to improve or refine their local plans.
"Every county in Maryland submitted a draft plan to reduce its share of water pollution in local waters and the Chesapeake Bay," said Jennifer Bevan-Dangel of 1000 Friends of Maryland, "and we are encouraged that every county has begun this important process."
Some did a better job than others, though, according to an evaluation by the Choose Clean Waters Coalition of environmental groups. Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Caroline, Dorchester and Montgomery counties turned in the strongest plans, in the group's judgment, which rated them as making a "strong start."
Howard, Kent, Prince Georges, St. Mary's and Talbot counties, plus Baltimore city, presented basically good draft plans, the groups said, but they failed to thoroughly document how pollution would be reduced and paid for. Those were dubbed a "good start."
Harford, Queen Anne’s, and Wicomico counties turned in skimpier plans, according to the coalition, while Allegany, Carroll, Cecil, Charles, Frederick, Garrett, Somerset, Washington and Worcester counties handed in what the group described as "skeletal" plans that did not commit the local governments to cleanup actions.
To learn more about the clean-water group's assessment of local bay plans, go here.
The Department of the Environment is now accepting comments on the state plan. Comments can be emailed to email@example.com Information on public meetings planned and on the plans themselves can be viewed at www.mde.state.md.us/programs/Water/TMDL/TMDLImplementation/Pages/DRAFT_PhaseII_WIPDocument_Main.aspx.