In an effort to make sure the Bay cleanup starts at the local level, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening joined leaders of 23 jurisdictions in signing a Local Government Partnership Agreement aimed at protecting water quality before it reaches the Chesapeake.

To help spur local efforts, the governor also announced a two-year, $12 million initiative to restore degraded streams and improve water quality.

The July 6 signing came only a week after the signing of a new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement. That agreement, signed by Glendening and the governors of Pennsylvania and Virginia, the EPA administrator, District of Columbia mayor and Chesapeake Bay Commission chairman, relies heavily on local governments to meet its goals of cleaning the Bay and its tributaries and managing growth.

“The new Maryland Partnership Agreement builds on the Chesapeake Bay 2000 Agreement by encouraging local governments to work together to develop plans and programs that will protect and preserve this region’s most important natural resource, the Chesapeake Bay,” Glendening said.

The local government agreement commits the state and counties to work cooperatively with Maryland’s 10 tributary teams to protect water quality for living resources and to develop revised plans to reduce nutrient and sediment loads that will be needed to attain the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement’s goal of a “clean” Bay by 2010.

Also, the local government agreement calls for jurisdictions to incorporate the goals of the Chesapeake 2000 Agreement into the development of plans, programs and policies.

To help encourage action at the local level, Glendening announced a new program that will provide $6 million in state funds, to be matched with $6 million in local funds, to help protect and restore streams.

The intent is to encourage practices such as streamside tree plantings that simultaneously improve stream habitat while reducing pollution. The initiative is aimed at not only improving water quality, but — by stabilizing stream banks — reducing the cost of fixing roads, bridges and sewer lines that are damaged by stream erosion.

Glendening said the 17,000 miles of Bay tributaries in Maryland must be protected along with the Chesapeake, noting that many of the streams that flow through densely populated areas are in sad shape.

“Fish and plants cannot live in them, water quality is poor and they cost us money when bridges and other infrastructure get washed out,” he said. “Many neighborhood streams have become dumping grounds, eyesores, places children must avoid.”