Volume 13, Issue 32 ~ August 11 - 17, 2005

 
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Commentary

How Much Are You Willing to Pay to Save the Bay?
by Gary Pendleton

Thank you, Steve Carr for your column Chaos Theory [Vol. xiii, No. 30: July 28]. Thanks for caring about Chesapeake Bay enough to ask what may be the essential question regarding the Bay’s future.

How much are you willing to pay to save the Bay?

It is a question that’s been on my mind for a while. Ever since Gov. Robert Ehrlich showed the political courage to introduce the flush tax, I have been wondering what concerned citizens can do to boost the intestinal fortitude of all our political leaders and show them that the citizenry will support drastic state-sponsored measures to save the Bay.

Concerned citizens must, in effect, lead our leaders to the conclusion that it is politically safe to ask Steve’s question to taxpayers, farmers, developers and everybody who has a stake in the Bay’s future. How much are you willing to pay?

I read Tom Horton’s book Turning the Tide, and I have listened to Howard Ernst, author of Chesapeake Bay Blues. I get the point that the Bay is in dire condition. As bad as it was in 1985, just to pick one year, it has only gotten worse. All of the steps needed to really and truly turn the Bay around — reduce air pollution, improve wastewater treatment, control point and non-point pollution, etc. — come with a price tag. A rather large price tag.

There is no point in pointing the finger at the other guy. We all live here, and we all contribute to the problem to some extent. We can pass laws and regulations, impose fees, fines and, yes, taxes. In the end, basic economics teaches us that the costs ultimately trickle down to us, the consumers, the residents of the Bay watershed.

I’m not saying that we should let polluters and abusers off the hook. But let’s not kid ourselves about the fact that we are, all of us, collectively killing the Bay. More importantly, there is no time to have that debate.

If the political leaders of Maryland are not willing to demand that the essential steps needed to save the Bay be taken, then who — who in the world — is going to do it? Certainly not their counterparts in the Virginia legislature, that is for sure. We Marylanders must lead the effort to save Chesapeake Bay. It is our Grand Canyon, our Yellowstone, our treasure. It was the most productive body of water in the world, but now it is on the brink.

But our state representatives need something from us. They need a strong, clear signal that we understand the problem and we are willing to pay the price in exchange for real progress. Otherwise, by the time they muster the political courage to begin the discussion, it will be too late, or the price tag will have risen even higher out of sight.

It is my hope and belief that concerned Marylanders will be willing to go on record, to pledge an amount they would pay to restore the health of the Bay.

If Maryland must lead the way, then it will have to be those of us who live closest to the Bay to lead by example. So allow me the honor of going on record, here and now. Sen. Mike Miller and Del. Sue Kullen: Pay attention! I’m willing to pay $100 annually for the Bay.

Will that be enough? It will take someone with better math skills than mine to answer the question. But it could be a start. Perhaps if we lead the way, other states and the federal government will follow suit and together we can all make the difference.

Come on. Answer the question Steve asked. How much are you willing to pay to save the Bay?

You can send your response to me by e-mail: grp@chesapeake.net.

Whatever the amount, our leaders need to know.

How much are you willing to pay to Save the Bay? Now!


© COPYRIGHT 2004 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.