SNOW HILL — Representatives from the Maryland Coastal Bays Program (MCBP) and Lower Shore Land Trust (LSLT) met with the Worcester County Commissioners Tuesday to discuss the state of some of the county’s natural resources.
Waterways on the Eastern Shore continue to balance on a delicate point, according to MCBP Executive Director Dave Wilson.
“We’re seeing the trends that we’ve seen in the past probably 10 years,” he told the commission.
Citing the coastal bays annual report card, which received a C+ this year, Wilson said that some significant improvements have been made in areas like stormwater management but that there is still a long way to go. He added that the report card, while a useful tool, was not as indicative to the state of area bays as long-term tracking over a decade or more.
“The report card, again, is a snapshot. It’s a one-year look at water quality in the coastal bays,” Wilson said.
The trends that MCBP are seeing are a blend of good news and bad news.
“And so even though the southern bays are still relatively healthier than the northern bays, we’ve seen improvement in the northern bays,” said Wilson. “So the trend in the northern bays is for generally improving water quality. The trend in the southern bays … much poorer water quality than we’ve seen. That decline that started about 2002 is continuing and we need to reverse that trend.”
On the subject of stormwater, Wilson congratulated Berlin on its recent addition of a stormwater utility and added that he hopes to see Ocean City follow. Commissioner Louise Gulyas asked Wilson about how other areas are chipping in to improve water quality in the coastal bays.
“Does the state of Virginia participate in the cleanup of Chincoteague Bay?” she asked.
Wilson admitted that Virginia “has not been particularly cooperative” in joint cleanup efforts but that Accomack County and local towns near Chincoteague have been progressive in addressing water quality. Commissioner Judy Boggs wondered how much Accomack can do without Virginia’s support.
“Is it realistic to expect them to be able to accomplish this without state support?” she asked.
There is some support there from the state, as well as the federal, answered Wilson, though it doesn’t seem to be too high on Virginia’s list.
“It’s not that the state doesn’t support them in the efforts. It’s that the state of Virginia has different priorities. Their priority is not to cleanup Chincoteague Bay,” he said.
From LSLT, Executive Director Kate Patton supplied information about some land protection projects that have been completed or are in the works. She showed the commissioners a brief video which is also posted on LSLT’s YouTube channel.
“We work with landowners one-on-one,” she said. “They express their needs and their interests to us.”
Patton acknowledged that LSLT has some concerns about the future, especially in regards to things like land fragmentation and over-development. However, she stressed that her organization is not uniformly opposed to smart development.
“Development is going to happen,” said Patton. “We know that; we’re not anti-development.”
Protecting the coastal bays is a worthy endeavor, according to Commissioner Virgil Shockley, but also one that needs to be realistic. As a farmer, Shockley told Wilson that he has spent thousands of dollars keeping up with new regulations.
“In 10 years, I’ve spent $161,000 buying commercial fertilizer instead of using manure,” he said. “So when you’re talking about the cost of the program to improve the Chesapeake Bay, to the farmers, that’s a real cost.”