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Bay cleanup - and debate over who pays for it - continues

The discussion about the cleanup of Chesapeake Bay has rebooted now that summer is over. A recent U.S. Senate subcommittee meeting heard testimony from Anne Arundel County Executive Laura Neuman and others about the status and the continuing cost of the cleanup.

Neuman expressed her concerns that neither federal nor state governments are contributing enough money to the program. The Maryland General Assembly made a critical error, she said, when it required only 10 large jurisdictions to address storm water runoff. Those 10 jurisdictions, including Anne Arundel County, have had to levy taxes or establish additional fees to cover the costs of their storm water programs.

The executive's opposition to the tax is well-known in the county. She vetoed the tax when it crossed her desk, but the County Council overturned the veto. Her continuing opposition is the direct result of communications from constituents, she said. County residents do not understand the link between urban runoff and the problem of sediment pollution in the bay, she explained.

State and federal governments have been debating Chesapeake Bay's pollution problem for decades. And recent abatement efforts, according to an executive with the Chesapeake Bay Program, have been successful: Nutrient and sediment pollution have decreased in the last three years.

The challenge is to continue the work, the executive testified. The bay area's population has grown over the past 30 years, and more people means more development. More development means more runoff-inducing impervious surfaces, like roads, parking lots, driveways and roofs. In fact, he said, the addition of impervious surface in the bay watershed outpaced population growth significantly, doubling in the past three decades, while population increased by just 50 percent.

Bay states are working on a revised agreement about the cost of the cleanup. The General Assembly will also likely be taking up the question in its 2014 session.

Source: Capital Gazette, "Neuman calls for federal help on bay cleanup, but called out on stormwater politics," E.B. Furgurson III, Sep. 4, 2013

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