Cardin hosts restora­tion round­table

Hosted by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, ed­u­ca­tors, re­searchers, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers and ad­vo­cates of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay gath­ered for a dis­cus­sion about im­prov­ing the water­shed.

Sunday Star - - FRONT PAGE - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com Fol­low Mike Davis on Twit­ter @mike_k­ibay­times.

GRASONVILLE — The 510-acre wildlife con­ser­va­tion site at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter cre­ated the back­drop for more than 30 Mary­lan­ders work­ing to pro­tect the nat­u­ral world in the state to some de­gree Thurs­day af­ter­noon, April 5.

Hosted by U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., ed­u­ca­tors, re­searchers, non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion lead­ers and ad­vo­cates of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay gath­ered for a round­table dis­cus­sion about what steps have been taken to im­prove the water­shed and which ar­eas need fur­ther im­prove­ment.

Cardin, speak­ing about the om­nibus ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill re­cently signed by Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, said the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency was fully funded de­spite a pro­posed 30 per­cent cut in the pres­i­dent’s bud­get, a 6 per­cent in­crease in re­search funds, $73 mil­lion in funds for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram and and ex­tra $3 mil­lion for Na­tional Parks Ser­vice pro­grams and re­versed the de­ci­sion to move the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Of­fice from An­napo­lis to Fort Meade.

Cardin said the En­vi­ron­men­tal Public Works Com­mit­tee, which he sits on, unan­i­mously au­tho­rized $90 mil­lion in fund­ing for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram for fis­cal year 2019 ne­go­ti­a­tions. Cardin said leg­is­la­tures in Mary­land al­ways have had strong bi­par­ti­san sup­port of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram.

“We have re­ally strong rep­re­sen­ta­tion for the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay from this re­gion,” Cardin said in ref­er­ence to fed­eral, state and lo­cally elected of­fi­cials on the East­ern Shore.

Though Cardin said the Bay was mak­ing im­prove­ments thanks to the co­op­er­a­tion be­tween all stake­hold­ers, or­ga­ni­za­tions and pol­icy mak­ers, “wa­ters in the U.S. (are) in se­ri­ous trou­ble” as poli­cies like the Clean Air and Wa­ter Act, cou­pled with the pres­i­dent’s lack of fund­ing for cer­tain en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­grams, puts those ef­forts in dan­ger.

“Let’s be re­al­is­tic: We need to de­velop strate­gies that can keep us fo­cused on progress on the Bay,” Cardin said while com­mit­ting to cre­at­ing strate­gies to sup­port the lead­ers sit­ting around the ta­ble.

Many of the ex­perts and ad­vo­cates thanked Cardin for his sup­port of re­search and im­ple­men­ta­tion fund­ing. Those fund­ing pri­or­i­ties were vi­tal yes­ter­day, are to­day and will be a year from now, one at­tendee said. Some of that re­search fund­ing re­stored in the om­nibus ap­pro­pri­a­tions bill in­cluded fund­ing NASA, which com­pletes a range of re­search on the Bay.

Alan Gi­rard with Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Foun­da­tion said the im­prove­ment of the Bay is “not ac­ci­den­tal,” as lo­cal gov­ern­ment agen­cies and or­ga­ni­za­tions have pri­or­i­tized those ef­forts, in­clud­ing fol­low­ing and cre­at­ing new best man­age­ment prac­tices.

Cardin said by far the fastest grow­ing source of con­cern for Bay health is sed­i­ment runoff. Though it’s not the lead­ing source of con­cern, he said, re­me­dial ac­tion is ex­pen­sive, so cre­at­ing so­lu­tions con­tin­ues to be cru­cial.

Some of those so­lu­tions, Cardin said, need to be in­cor­po­rated into a larger over­all plan, which isn’t to the level needed to con­tinue mak­ing strides. Oys­ters, he said, have started to re­cover, but an over­all plan has not been cre­ated to en­sure its longevity.

Just as the state of Vir­ginia has dif­fer­ent plans than Mary­land to ad­dress the Bay’s health and vi­tal­ity, spe­cific goals and ob­jec­tives have been cre­ated that all sides work to­ward de­spite the spe­cific pro­gram­ing used to achieve it. That same holis­tic ap­proach, Cardin said, needs to be used to gather all stake­hold­ers in the oys­ter in­dus­try to de­velop a plan that “make sense for Mary­land.”

He said if more agree­ment can be found with what stake­hold­ers want to see, “I think we can get strong par­tic­i­pa­tion at the fed­eral level to help.” Cardin said oys­ters are crit­i­cally im­por­tant and an area where “we can make tremen­dous progress.”

Cardin said he didn’t feel enough con­sen­sus has been found on how to reach the oys­ter lev­els and Bay health de­sired. There needs to be unity amongst the stake­hold­ers, he said.

Other ar­eas of dis­cus­sion in­cluded lever­ag­ing emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies for larger yields, the im­por­tance of con­tin­ued fund­ing for con­ser­va­tion ef­forts and ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram fund­ing.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., hosts a round­table dis­cus­sion with con­ser­va­tion lead­ers and ad­vo­cates at the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay En­vi­ron­men­tal Cen­ter Thurs­day af­ter­noon, April 5.

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