If you don't come on in, the water won't be fine

At New Bay Times we write a fair amount about the health of the Chesapeake Bay because it is vital to our recreation, to our economy and to our own health. We try not to sound too preachy.

We may not be ordained ministers, but last Sunday morning was one of those days when we wished we had a pulpit.

Watching a modest turnout under threatening skies at one of the Bay's annual Bernie Fowler wade-ins, we had to agree with Del. George Owings, who observed: "I guess people think that the Bay only will get better if they come out on a sunny day."

We'd like to commend the many elected officials who took part. Baysiders say they want their state and county officials to fight for the Chesapeake. Owings was one of many who endured cold waves lapping at their bellies for the yearly ritual of measuring Bay health by seeing how deep into Bay waters people can see their feet.

(It was about 24 inches along Herring Bay; the water was a bit roiled to be certain.)

The slack turnout wasn't the only Sunday morning event that dampened our spirits. In a report called "Tangle of Trouble Stifles Life in the Bay," the Baltimore Sun devoted massive space and energy that day toward identifying the problems that persist in Chesapeake.

We applaud the Sun's effort. Too many daily newspapers have retreated from hard-hitting environmental journalism in favor of feel-good stories and personality pieces.

What the Sun piece concluded is that saving the Chesapeake is turning out to be a lot more complicated than we thought. Why? Because more and more people keep settling here, further stressing the Bay. Because we can't get a grip on the nitrogen pollution that keeps pouring in and strangling aquatic life. Because oxygen-deprived "dead zones" persist. Because well, you get the idea.

Donald Boesch, a prominent Bay ecologist with the University of Maryland Estuarine Studies Center, did not sugarcoat his answer to the question of how much has been achieved in restoring the Bay. "Not a lot," he noted.

To that, and to other expressions of gloom, we would remind people that a whole lot has been done as far as saving the Chesapeake from its rapid decline of just two decades ago.

In many ways, with many Bay citizens pitching in, the course of that decline was reversed by halting the soup of industrial pollution that poured, by saving rockfish and by starting to bring back Bay grasses.

Where are we now? Fighting to keep up with constant change and the pressure from people constantly coming here to partake of our rich life. Treading water, that's what we're doing.

Perhaps people were too busy reading about the Bay last Sunday to get in it. Then again, it's hard to do a good job treading water if you're not getting wet.

| Issue 24 |

Volume VII Number 24
June 17-23, 1999
New Bay Times

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