Diet for a Healthy Bay

If pollutants were calories, our Chesapeake would be obese, short of breath and diabetic.

So it’s good news that the Environmental Protection Agency’s new plan to require other states to follow Maryland’s lead in counting — and limiting — the junk they’re feeding the Chesapeake.

In an historic front-page announcement, the EPA flunked the long-awaited plans of four states — Virginia, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and New York — on improving Bay nutrition by cutting back on nitrogen and phosphorus.

Maryland and the District of Columbia proposed pretty good diets for a healthy Bay, according to the feds, who were following President Barack Obama’s orders. But four neighbor states said in these hard times, they can’t afford to take junk food out of the Bay’s diet.

Change your Bay diet or else, the feds replied. Revised nutrient plans are due November 29. If they fail to detail a strict regiment of plugging leaky sewage treatment plants and stemming farm runoff, punishments include cuts in federal grants to states and localities.

This is good news to Marylanders, as a couple hundred of us signaled September 28 at a Choose Clean Water Coalition rally at the National Aquarium in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. We’re willing to make sacrifices to save the Bay, but we don’t want to carry the dead weight of our neighbors, especially Virginia. The five states flunked by the EPA feed an estimated 70 percent of the junk nitrogen and phosphorus causing Chesapeake morbidity.

The Chesapeake’s health is vital to Maryland’s economy. Our farmers shouldn’t bear burdens by themselves. Nor should our watermen have to endure constant changes, like the new oystering restrictions, because others in the watershed shirk responsibility. Boating, tourism, lodging, food service — all of those economic sectors suffer from a bloated Bay.

We’ve all got an investment in the Chesapeake, so we’ve all got a stake in Bay health. We’ve spent roughly $5 billion since the 1980s on Bay restoration research and solutions.

The new diet is the best news yet for the Chesapeake.

The Obama administration and the EPA did not only a good thing but also a brave one by insisting on a healthy diet for the Bay at a time when so many environmental goals, from control of toxins to coralling greenhouse gases, are under coordinated political assault.

And often hysterical attack. A Pennsylvania official compared the EPA rules to “Communist China.” Either China’s doing better in managing pollution — or somebody doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Learn More

Learn about Maryland’s plan in detail at three upcoming public hearings: 6:30 to 8:30pm Sept. 30 in the Talbot County Community Center in Easton; Oct. 4 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium; Oct. 6 at the Prince George’s Soil Conservation District in Upper Marlboro.

Learn still more in EPA hearings on the overall Chesapeake Bay clean-up plan (called the Chesapeake Total Maximum Daily Load plan, TMDL, or pollution diet): 2-4pm Oct. 12 at the Easton Club in Easton; Oct. 13 at the Sheraton in Annapolis; Oct. 14 at the Hagerstown Hotel.