More than two dozen witnesses testified before a joint legislative committee Tuesday on proposed regulation for upgraded septic systems across the state, most of them opposing the rule change. State Department of the Environment officials who wrote the regulations –– the only proponents aside from environmentalists –– told the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review joint committee that applying best available septic technology statewide is the way to reduce nutrient sediment load in the Chesapeake Bay.
Tropical Storm Agnes, the great and hurtful deluge that struck Chesapeake Bay 40 years ago in June, was the magnitude of storm that only strikes every two or three centuries on average—maybe even a 500-year storm.
But from the Bay’s standpoint it was arguably unique; nothing else like it in the thousands of years the estuary has existed. To this day, significant parts of the Chesapeake ecosystem have not regained their pre-Agnes health, writes longtime environmental reporter Tom Horton.
A pilot program to install tracking devices on some commercial fishing boats in the Chesapeake Bay may go into effect next year. The program would be voluntary for commercial fishermen. It will be discussed at two open houses next week along with proposed fishing regulations from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Fisheries Service.
The poultry industry helps drive the economy of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, but poultry litter — chicken manure — has been blamed as one of the greatest contributors to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. Large producers, farmers, and state initiatives alike are working together to lessen the industry’s environmental impact while preserving the businesses.
In a new report, the Federation for American Immigration Reform is blaming the overpopulation of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, and the resulting environmental destruction, on the influx of immigrants coming into the area. But bay advocates scoffed at the notion that growth and immigration are to blame for the area’s environmental problems.
House Environmental Matters Committee Chairwoman Maggie McIntosh said she will introduce legislation doubling the annual flush tax from $30 to $60 per household “if no one else will do it.”
Maryland’s Bay Restoration Fund Advisory Committee is proposing the hike. The new revenue is needed, the committee says in its new annual report to the legislature, because the estimated cost of cleaning up the wastewater treatment plants has doubled from $750 million when Gov. Bob Ehrlich first proposed the annual $30 “fee” in 2004 to almost $1.5 billion today. “This is a tough time to be raising fees and taxes on anyone,” McIntosh told several hundred people on Friday at the “Maryland Forward” forum on sustainability at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills hosted by Gov. Martin O’Malley. But she felt the increase was needed to improve the bay. MarylandReporter.com reported on the discussion about raising the flush tax in August.
Republican Robert McDonnell’s win Tuesday in the Virginia gubernatorial elections could roll back gains in that state’s cooperation with Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay and other policy issues, experts warned Wednesday.
Outgoing Democratic Gov. Timothy Kaine has had “a very cooperative, positive relationship” with Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, said Mark Rozell, a professor of public policy at Virginia’s George Mason University. This relationship, Rozell said, is, in part, due to Kaine’s and O’Malley’s shared party affiliation, as well as their similar views on issues such as the environment and the Chesapeake Bay.