Volume XI, Issue 34 ~ August 21-27, 2003

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Politics Is Killing All Our Bay
by David Bonar

It’s difficult to read, without sadness, your article detailing the vast problems facing Chesapeake Bay [Politics Is Killing the Bay, Vol. XI, No. 33: Aug. 14]. Many whole-heartedly agree with Howard Ernst and shout Amen to his claim that no one wants to take the blame, moreover the initiative, to clean it up.

We continue to build at staggering rates. We pour oil and rubber onto roads and let it wash into the water. We build on every scrap of land, and what isn’t suited for development is filled in and built on anyway. Then we fertilize our lawns and let it run off into our bays with the rain and lawn sprinklers.

Developers blame farmers, farmers blame developers and politicians blame everyone but themselves for the mess that exists, not only along the Chesapeake, but in Ocean City, Annapolis and Delaware’s inland bays. We are rapidly creating a monumental cesspool where nothing will be able to live — except the algae that strangles the ecosystem and takes the very oxygen it creates out of the water as it decays in the summer heat.

Ask yourselves who’s to blame. Look back on the passage of the Chesapeake Bay Initiative in the 1980s. Who was exempted from the law, in order to get it passed in Annapolis? Baltimore and Baltimore County were exempted then, because the legislature needed their votes to get the bill through. Now whose spoils are being barged out and dumped down the Bay? Baltimore and Baltimore County!

Drive into Ocean City, White Marlin Capital of the World, or the ‘Quiet Resorts’ of Delaware and note that development has eaten up every stitch of land in that stretch of island. Look along Delaware Route 54 leading from Selbyville to Ocean City and Fenwick Island. Development has gobbled up that land, too, or is in the process of doing so. Look at the sheen of fuel that skims the top of the water in the bays west of Ocean City. Count the thousands of abandoned and rotting crab traps we’ve left in the water over the years.

Smell the stench of rotting chicken remains that have been allowed to drift into the St. Martins River over the years. Look at the muck and black mire that coats the bottom of the river when you wade into the three or four feet of water that are in there today. Muck is deeper than the water. Note the ooze that stains your feet and toes black and leaves your clothes smelling of sewage. Note the lesions and rashes our children are getting after they swim or recreate in the bays or surf along the coast. Note the lesions we find on our fish. Read the warnings not to consume more than eight ounces of fish caught in some areas of the shore during a year.

The same is true for the Atlantic Coastal area stretching north into Delaware Bay. Block after block of homes, cottages, townhouses, beautifully fertilized lawns and miles of concrete and asphalt roadways and parking lots have covered what was once nature’s filtration system for the bays. South Bethany has allowed the spawning of canals, making even inland homes ‘waterfront’ paradise, that pollute and add to the problem.

Next comes Crisfield. Development has begun there. With the development of a ferry system to Southern Maryland will come even more. Soon, it too will suffer the same fate as the rest of the Bay. Eastern Shore Virginia will not be far behind.

We’ve pumped millions of dollars worth of sand onto the beaches, only to have it wash away in the next Nor’easter. Assateague Island is a spit of land compared to what it once was. Rehoboth Beach has a beach that, at times, is just a few feet wide, and Bethany Beach has no beach at all in times of high tide.

Alas, it is probably too late to save either the Chesapeake or many other inland bays and tributaries. It seems everyone and their brother wants a piece of the shoreline on which to build their lovely home or condo, or to plaster high rises, boat docks and parking lots which empty their foul spillage into the water.
In the words of the late Jerry Garcia, “Somebody’s gotta do something!”

David Bonar, who’s lived on the Delmarva Peninsula his adult life, writes from Dover, Delaware.


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Last updated August 21, 2003 @12:32am