The Chesapeake Bay watershed has an enormous opportunity to advance low-impact development as well as identify the techniques required for "no impact" development.
The U.S. Department of Defense is closing facilities across the nation and reducing forces at others under a process known as Base Realignment and Closure.
These actions will result in 40,000-60,000 positions or jobs moving into Maryland from outside the Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Most of the people moving to these jobs will have spouses and children, so we may be talking about an influx of 60,000-240,000 people. They will need housing, grocery stores, auto repair, schools, hospitals and other goods and services, so the multiplier effect of this influx will be enormous.
And the families coming into the region will not just be settling in Maryland. Many will be finding new houses and communities in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
Our congressional delegations are already gearing up and requesting additional appropriations for bridges, roads and other infrastructure to support the expanding population. These investments in infrastructure will be needed and our senators and representatives should be applauded for their foresight.
Over the last four decades, though, one of the lessons we have learned is that population growth and development matter considerably when it comes to the Bay's restoration. After billions of dollars have been invested in the Chesapeake cleanup, our water quality has not increased to the level we would like mostly because of the pace of population growth and the subsequent residential and commercial development.
Does that mean that we should oppose BRAC redeployment into the Chesapeake Bay watershed? Absolutely not. We should look at this as an opportunity and use the population influx to show the world how sustainable development is done.
The Chesapeake Executive Council, under the chairmanship of Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, would be wise to mandate that all BRAC-related residential and commercial development, as well as transportation construction, use state-of-the-art, low-impact development and better site design techniques.
In addition, the Executive Council should reach out to our congressional delegation and ask for research and demonstration dollars to identify and implement no-impact development. No-impact development would encompass building techniques that do not increase stormwater runoff greater than the natural hydrology for the site.
The Executive Council should also negotiate with the Defense Department to gain access to high-resolution satellite imagery so that the Chesapeake Bay Program could finally measure sprawl.
In summary, BRAC in the Chesapeake Bay watershed should be a model for the way we grow in the future and be synonymous with sustainable development.