Thursday, January 17, 2013

St. Mary's County Going off the Bay Diet?

St. Mary’s County government was asked Tuesday to be the eighth member of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a fledgling association of counties that wants to change the scope of the federal and state mandated Watershed Implementation Plan.

It’s likely there are three commissioner votes for St. Mary’s to join, but Commission President Jack Russell, the board’s lone Democrat, made it clear he did not support the idea.
However, the St. Mary's County Commission is a five man woman person board, so it looks like the vote may be to go off the Bay Diet.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s plan for the Chesapeake Bay watershed is to reduce the levels of nutrients and sediment by 2025, by clamping down on runoff from farms and urban areas, and upgrading septic systems and sewage treatment plants at significant cost to local governments.
It is all about the money.  The 'Bay Diet' is going to be expensive, and the local governments are looking for ways to get out from under as much as possible.  A small investment of $25,000 to join the 'Anti-Diet" brigade may pay off in the end.  If not, well, it's not much money in the grand scheme of things.

One thing that the group opposing the diet has focused on is the problem of Conowingo Dam, and how it is becoming less effective at retaining nutrients as the pond fills with mud:
What is not being considered in the cleanup plan is the decades of sediment stuck behind the Conowingo Dam, which holds back the Susquehanna River between Cecil and Harford counties. The dam and its full load of sediment behind it are “an obvious omission that needs to be addressed,” Paul Smith, Frederick County commissioner and committee member of the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, told the St. Mary’s commissioners.
I posted on that last night.  It's true that the dam is becoming less effective at retaining sediments and nutrients, but I think it's an open question as to who should be responsible for addressing that problem. Will the counties succeed in deflecting the problem onto Exelon (the dam's operator)?  Stay tuned.

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