Guest Column: There are things we can all do to help save the Chesapeake BayBy JOANNA CONTI
The Capital 04/21/09
The Chesapeake needs you! Every summer, our crabs, fish and oysters face a terrible menace to their survival - as much as 40-plus percent of the Chesapeake Bay becomes a dead zone with insufficient oxygen for them to breathe. Not surprisingly, the bay's marine life is dying off.
In the last 17 years, the population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay has plummeted 67 percent. Oysters, which used to be the bay's most profitable commercial fishery, have declined to 1 percent of the levels seen in the 1950s and 1960s. Fish kills of 100,000 or more fish at a time regularly occur each summer.
Governmental plans to restore the bay were first announced with great fanfare 25 years ago. Almost $6 billion in spending later, key water quality measures such as the level of dissolved oxygen in the water have continued to decline despite the achievement of significant reductions in the amount of pollution reaching the bay. Every year another dismal report finds the bay on life support.
What is it going to take?
In fact, we have been successful reducing pollution from some sources. There have been fairly impressive decreases in the amount of pollution entering the bay from both wastewater treatment facilities and from agricultural lands since 1985. However, pollution that enters the bay from two other sources - air pollution and urban/suburban runoff - has not been going down significantly. In fact, the pollution washing off our yards, streets and parking lots has actually increased since 1985 and is offsetting the progress made in other areas.
Forty percent of the pollution killing the bay comes from urban/suburban runoff and from air pollution. We can complain all we want about how government isn't doing its job, how the EPA inflated progress, etc. But the fact is that the government can't do all that much more to reduce air pollution or the pollution running off roads, parking lots and yards. Only you and I can.
Every single one of us is doing things that pollute the bay and very few of us are taking steps to reduce our impact. Fortunately, there are a lot of things we can do that will make a difference:
Reducing pollution from your yard or neighborhood:
Reduce air pollution:
Since air pollution and urban/suburban runoff are responsible for 40 percent of the nitrogen killing the bay, restoring the bay is going to require all of us to take action to reduce the pollution we personally contribute. Things like using less fertilizer, planting trees and picking up dog poop yield surprisingly large results for a small amount of effort.
Because what gets measured gets done, Make Maryland Great is launching the Bay Hero program, where each of us can set personal pollution reduction goals and then track exactly how many pounds of pollution are eliminated as a result of our efforts. Folks who become Bay Heroes also can recruit others to join with them on group projects such as building a rain garden around their church's parking lot. Our goal is to build a community of people working together to reduce the amount of nonpoint source pollution we personally contribute to the bay and to encourage others to take action.
Ready to do your part to save the Chesapeake Bay? Become a Bay Hero at www.bayhero.com. It's way past time to restore our beautiful bay.
The writer is president of Make Maryland Great (www.makemarylandgreat.com), a group dedicated to solving some of the most challenging problems facing Maryland.
(Revised April 2009)