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Big Stuff Going On

Put in the right hole, our money — and effort — makes a difference.

As winter hangs on like a bad cold, my hibernating nature has sought no bigger decision than whether to devote the 9pm Sunday hour to Downton Abbey or True Detective.
    Yet in the wider world, big stuff — actual transformative change — is going on. So I’ve poked my head out of the burrow to take a look.
    Bob Melamud — who doesn’t make hardship weather a stay-home-from-work excuse — reports this week on promising news on oyster restoration. He tells us that findings in Florida and Virginia suggest we’ll get results from at least some of the money Maryland has poured into the Bay to restore our hard-working, many-skilled native oyster.
    His subject in “Maryland’s $6 Million Shell Pile” is the use of fossilized oyster shell to sustain new generations of oysters — not to mention their many lively associates — in Harris Creek on the Eastern Shore.
    Harris Creek is one piece in a big picture. An oyster sanctuary, it’s part of the 25 percent of Maryland’s productive oyster bottom now set aside for oysters to grow for the Bay’s sake rather than for harvest. Sanctuaries, too, are part of a bigger picture of oyster restoration.
    In other parts of the picture, people are making plans for native oysters’ future, a horizon we’d about given up on just a few years ago. Raising oyster seed. Raising oysters from seed on their piers to stock sanctuaries like Harris Creek or in their own communities’ waterways. Collecting empty oyster shell from packing houses and restaurants.
    And learning how to farm oysters as aquaculturists, helping create a new oyster economy and new oyster appetites while taking the pressure off wild oysters and adding their filtering power to cleaning up the Bay.
    All those separate actions and many others are painting a rosier oyster picture than we’ve seen in many years. Action by action, they’re adding up to the magic of transformative change, in economy and ecology. 
    It’s about time, as well, for reporting some good news about Maryland’s Watershed Protection and Restoration Program. All the bad-mouthing we’ve heard makes the Rain Tax seem like the worst thing that’s happened since the Flush Tax.
    Let’s hope we’re so lucky. Because of the dedicated funding source affectionately known as the Flush Tax, we’re working house by house and water purification plant by plant to keep toilet water out of the Bay.
    Under the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program, we take responsibility for our hard places — roofs and driveways and streets — by paying our share to reduce their bad effects on the Bay.
    County Executive Laura Neuman — who on taking office promptly vetoed the Anne Arundel County Council’s decision on how to make the plan work — is now putting our share of the fee to work by hiring the right man for the job. At South River Federation, Erik Michelsen captured stormwater in creative ways all over his watershed. Now his expertise is benefitting us countywide.
    At the same time, Neuman’s creating an advisory Stormwater Fee Committee of citizens “to have a seat at the table on issues that affect them.” That’s the best place we can be, and I’m rooting for my neighbor Mike Brewer, an environmentalist in practice and policy, to take one of those seats.
    Like restoring oysters and improving water purification, holding back the polluting torrent of stormwater is part of preserving our future. Don’t believe the naysayers. Making a difference is up to us, and we’re doing it.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; editor@bayweekly.com