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Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Maryland invites input on next phase of Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan

June workshops will be held across the state hear from citizens, local governments, organizations

  • June 07, 2018

Maryland officials are seeking public feedback as they draft the state’s next steps in the long-running effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay.

In a workshop with local officials and others from Central Maryland, state officials discuss development of a new “watershed implementation plan” to guide the state’s Chesapeake Bay cleanup efforts through 2025. (Timothy B. Wheeler)

Earlier this week, officials with the state departments of the Environment and Agriculture briefed local officials, nonprofit leaders and others about the cleanup progress to date and the tough issues still to be faced.  While water quality is improving, the Bay’s oxygen-starved “dead zone” is shrinking and underwater grasses are rebounding to record levels, they said more needs to be done to fully restore the Chesapeake — and keep it that way.

“We have some challenges ahead, some difficult decisions to make,” said Lee Currey, water and science administration director for the Maryland Department of the Environment. “We need to be creative.”

The gathering Tuesday in Catonsville was the first of five public workshops to take place across Maryland this month, as officials draft a new watershed implementation plan intended to guide the state’s Bay cleanup efforts.

Maryland and five other states in the Bay watershed, plus the District of Columbia, are in the process of developing their third set of cleanup plans since 2010 for complying with the far-reaching “pollution diet” that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency developed that year for the Bay. Through this mandate, officially called a total maximum daily load, the EPA requires each jurisdiction to have measures in place by 2025 that will achieve its nutrient and sediment pollution reduction targets for the Bay.

Despite passing and tightening laws and regulations to limit stormwater runoff, nitrogen pollution from development continues to grow. (Graphic by Maryland Department of the Environment)

Maryland officials say the new plan will build on what has been accomplished under previous plans, which yielded significant reductions in nutrient and sediment pollution through wastewater treatment plant upgrades and the reduction of runoff from farmland. A recent report by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation noted that Maryland met its interim 2017 cleanup goals for phosphorus and sediment, but fell short in reducing nitrogen pollution.

“Our hard work is paying off,” said Dinorah Dalmasy, manager of water planning for the MDE. But, she added, “as we are getting closer to the goal, it is not getting any easier.” She noted, for instance, that stormwater pollution reductions made to date have been offset or outpaced by growth.

For Maryland’s push to reach its 2025 cleanup goal, officials said they hoped to enlist market forces and creative financing to drive additional pollution reductions from wastewater, stormwater and agriculture. The plan also must address issues expected to make restoration harder to achieve, or maintain, such as the release of nutrients from behind Conowingo dam, increased rainfall from climate change and continued development.

Currey and other speakers asked the audience to suggest content for the new plan. Recommendations included promoting land conservation, increasing oversight and enforcement, and paying more attention to the maintenance of pollution control measures.

Free and open to everyone, the workshops are sponsored by the University of Maryland-affiliated Harry R. Hughes Center for Agro-Ecology, with funding provided by the Town Creek Foundation.

The schedule of remaining workshops follows.  Doors open at 9:30 a.m., and sessions run from 10 a.m. to 3 or 4 p.m., with lunch provided. Advance registration is required.

  • Lower Eastern Shore (Dorchester, Somerset, Wicomico, Worcester counties): Thursday, June 14 at the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, 500 Glen Ave. in Salisbury. Register at
  • Upper Eastern Shore (Caroline, Cecil, Kent, Queen Anne's, Talbot counties): Friday, June 15 at The Milestone, 9630 Technology Drive in Easton. Register at
  • Southern Maryland (Anne Arundel, Calvert, Charles, Prince George's, St. Mary's counties): Monday, June 18 at the Charles Soil Conservation District, 4200 Gardiner Road in Waldorf. Register at
  • Western Maryland (Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, Washington counties): Tuesday, June 19 at the Williamsport Banquet Hall, 2 Brandy Drive in Williamsport. Register at

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About Timothy B. Wheeler
Timothy B. Wheeler is associate editor and senior writer for the Bay Journal. He has more than two decades of experience covering the environment for The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets. .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).
Read more articles by Timothy B. Wheeler


By submitting a comment, you are consenting to these Rules of Conduct. Thank you for your civil participation. Please note: reader comments do not represent the position of Chesapeake Media Service.

Tom Sprehe on June 10, 2018:

I urge MDE to incorporate marine debris reduction and interception, particularly with respect to plastic pollution, into the Chespeake Bay goals. Baltimore's Inner Harbor has made much progress, but the majority of plastic pollution loading comes from the Middle Branch. Marine debris includes derelict fishing gear as well as marine litter from storwater runoff trasnporting land-based litter. The plastic fraction of marine debris is much more than an aesthetic nusiance, causing wildlife ingestion, impingement and suffocation, posing a real danger to sea birds, fish and turtles. Worse, there is a growing body of evidence that as the plastic debris fracts into smaller particles with an increased tendency to adsorb organic pollutants from the water column, it enters the food chain at an exponential rate. Interception at outfalls and the mouths of streams is the most efficient way to triage the loading, while more sustainable management approaches upstream, such as increased sanitation, waste reduction and litter control are implemented. MDE should be a leader in the national and worldwide fight against this enormous global threat to the Bay and the oceans.

Linda Bystrak on July 19, 2018:

I would urge the state legislature to pass a 5 year septic tank pumping law for all homes/businesses w/in the 1000 ft critical area of any N impaired water way. Each year, 1/5 of the homes/businesses within a municipal or county jurisdiction that fit that description would have their tanks pumped and inspected. Home and business owners would also be taxed an extra fee equal to 1/5 of the average pumping and inspection fee of that area, every year. After 5 years have passed, and the tanks have been pumped and inspected, the local taxing authority will refund all the money paid by that home/business owner over five years, if a receipt for the pumping and inspection is given by the home/business owner to that taxing authority. If the tank has failed inspection and needs repair, then that repair bill will also have to be submitted to that taxing authority in order to receive the refund. Note: A county must have the capability of receiving the extra sewage at its waste treatment facilities in order for this program to work.

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