No Discharge Zone:

One More Step to Green Boating

Put Steuart Chaney on a boat in Herring Bay and he could gaze north or south and see one of his Herrington Harbour marinas. He might also see effluent from boats pouring into the water.

Despite state regulations and its aggressive pump-out program to help clean up the Bay, some boaters dump sewage. Other boats have on-board sewage treatment systems that brew a legally dumpable residue.

Chaney wants neither in Herring Bay, a broad, shallow cove extending from North Beach to Deale. That's why he's taken the initiative in creating the Chesapeake Bay's first No Discharge Zone. Gov. Parris Glendening offered support for the plan during an interview with New Bay Times.

"I do think it is a good idea," Glendening said. "We've got a lot of details to work on."

The plan would do just what it says: prohibit boats from flushing sewage systems anywhere in Herring Bay. "It means that no boat would discharge anything that isn't the same as the water they're in," observed Peg Burroughs, a member of the team.

The proposal has drawn criticism from boating organizations who say it would impose unwanted regulations on boaters, some of whom have invested in elaborate mechanical or chemical toilets.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Florida are moving toward no-discharge rules.

Making a clean marina is, of course, the first step to making a good marina.

Maryland's Pump-Out Program was the first big step in the greening of marinas. Before 1989, it was pretty routine for recreational boaters to dump their raw or nearly raw sewage into the Bay. Tons of sewage not only tainted Chesapeake waters; they also fertilized oxygen-stealing algae blooms.

To dam the flow of sewage, DNR mounted a massive education campaign for marinas and boaters, sweetening the pot with cash incentives. Marinas were reimbursed up to $12,500 to put in pump-out systems, and in 1996 the Bay Bucks Grand Reward Drawing lured boaters to best sanitary management practices with a $10,000 lottery.

Today, over 230 marinas provide pump-out stations, charging boaters no more than $5 for the service.

"Pumpings increased from 64,000 gallons in 1994 to 392,000 gallons last year," said Don O'Neill, the program director at DNR. "Maryland boaters are environmentally responsible and happy to do the right thing. They just need to know what it is and have it convenient and inexpensive."

Now that most every marina slipping over 50 boats has a stationary or portable pump-out station, the circle of environmental friendliness is widening.

Messes are easy to make at a marina, where oils, paints and resins are forever going on, in and out of dozens, sometimes hundreds, of boats. What's more, not only the professionals are doing the tune-ups and making the repairs; boat ownership brings out the do-it-yourselfness in many a captain. It doesn't necessarily teach best management practices.

Best management practices are just what the state will be teaching when its Clean Marina Guidebook is distributed in July to all of Maryland's 560 marinas.

The Guide will offer suggestions for planning and managing marinas, maintaining boats and handling sewage, stormwater, fuels, wastes and toxics. Besides state agencies, others developing the guide include: the Maryland Marine Trades Association, Boat U.S., the Coast Guard and scientists from Maryland Sea Grant College and a private group called Watershed Associates.

Marina owners themselves are involved: Steuart Chaney, Dave Gohsman of Port Annapolis, Sandy Zimmerman of Turkey Point in Edgewater and Bob DeYoung of Mears Marina.

Each of them is an old hand in the greening of marinas. When Chaney won the Marina of the Year award from Marina Dock Age, the magazine noted that Herrington "is home to a wetlands restoration project Chaney pioneered, the result of which is a flourishing natural wetland areas with numerous species of Chesapeake Bay area plants and wildlife."

Wetlands like Chaney's do more than make a marina look good. According to Department of Natural Resource's Beth Fuller Valentine, who staffs the Clean Marina Initiative, a marina that looks pretty is likely to be environmentally friendly.

"Vegetative buffers, especially right along water's edge and below upland areas, slow down stormwater run-off," she said.

You see another kind of vegetative buffer at Port Annapolis, where attractive gardens help filter the run-off from its swimming pool.

The less impervious surface, the greener the marina. By minimizing "asphalt and blue chips, in favor of an abundance of trees, grass and flowers," Spring Cove in Solomons gets environmental health as well as beauty.

In choosing a marina, Valentine also advises boaters to look for working areas that are environmentally friendly. For starters, designated work areas limit contamination and make clean-up easy. So do tarps under boats being scraped and dust-free sanders. Even recycling bins - ideally for cans, glass, oil and antifreeze - keep a marina green.

Port Annapolis now writes enviromental standards - what it promises and what it expects of slipholders - into its slip contract.

"This was risky," Valentine said. "Dave Gohsman was telling people how to spend their time and he lost some customers. But they were replaced immediately. In the end, environmental responsibility did not cost him any business. It made his marina more attractive."

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VolumeVI Number 13
April 2-8 1998
New Bay Times

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