O'Malley Rallies Support for Targeted Chesapeake Program

On the eve of the 26th Chesapeake Executive Council Meeting, Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley and senior advisers recently toured the Bush River to discuss two new strategies to accelerate Chesapeake Bay restoration and announced plans for a major new outreach effort.

"For Marylanders, the Bay is not merely something we drive over on our way to the ocean," said O'Malley. "The Bay is alive in the creeks, streams, and rivers that run through our neighborhoods and our open spaces. The Bay puts crabs and oysters on our tables and brings tourism dollars into our state's economy. All Maryland families -- even those who do not live within the watershed -- benefit from what the Chesapeake brings to our great state."

"We have spent too much time focusing on missed long-term goals, bad report cards, and lack of resources," O'Malley continued. "Now is the time to hold ourselves accountable for what we can each do, while on this planet, to make a difference."

According to the 2008 Chesapeake Bay Habitat Health Report Card recently issued by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES), in some cases tributaries adjacent to one another are demonstrating different, diverging trends.

"It seems that some river systems may have reached a tipping point, where self-reinforcing elements within the ecosystem are working to maintain either positive or negative trends," explained Don Boesch, president of UMCES. "An increase in underwater bay grasses can promote the growth of more bay grasses, improving water clarity, increasing oxygen levels, and providing better habitat for fish and crabs."

For example, while the Bush River in the Upper Western Bay is seeing signs of improvement, the adjacent Upper Eastern Shore tributaries, such as the Sassafras, are continuing to degrade. Scientists are still developing more precise information on the actual nutrient loadings that constitute a tipping point for a specific river system, however, they believe it can propel large-scale changes.

Through BayStat, the state has already made significant changes in how Maryland tracks, targets, and funds Bay restoration programs -- placing new emphasis on best management practices that are most cost-effective, and geographically targeting programs to generate the greatest benefit.

To enlist every Maryland citizen in the charge to create a smarter, greener, more sustainable future, O'Malley tasked his BayStat team with developing a grassroots action plan to include:

  • expanded roles for Maryland's Tributary Team and Soil Conservation Districts;
  • heightened engagement by county and municipal leaders in implementing the tributary strategies; and
  • a citizens' call to undertake specific actions that will contribute to local restoration.

"Just as the Bay's problems are man-made, so too are their solutions," said O'Malley. "Working together as One Maryland, getting our hands dirty and our boots wet, we can realize a restored Chesapeake Bay that we will be proud to leave as a legacy to our children."