For­mer state sen­a­tor speaks on bay con­di­tions

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

Dis­cusses nu­tri­ents, agri­cul­ture and the po­lit­i­cal will creased for the fourth straight year, mark­ing progress in im­prov­ing wa­ter qual­ity.

When pre­sent­ing the rea­sons be­hind the ex­ces­sive nu­tri­ents that go into the bay, Wine­grad noted agri­cul­ture as the ma­jor con­trib­u­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to data from the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Pro­gram that Wine­grad pre­sented Tues­day, agri­cul­ture ac­counted for nearly half of ni­tro­gen, half of phos­pho­rus and 60 per­cent of the sed­i­ments that go into the bay.

“No other in­dus­try, none, not steel-mak­ing, noth­ing in this coun­try, col­lec­tively pol­lutes more than agri­cul­ture,” he said. “We are blessed with the food sup­ply, but much of our grains” go over­seas and are used to feed the an­i­mals.

Even though ev­ery wa­ter­shed is dif­fer­ent as its dom­i­nat­ing source of pol­lu­tion dif­fers, Wine­grad said the role of agri­cul­ture can­not be ig­nored any­where.

“You want to clean the St. Mary’s River in this area, you ig­nore agri­cul­ture? You can wish all you want, you can do all the feel-good plant­ings of trees, stop all the de­vel­op­ment, it still won’t work,” he said.

To­ward the end of the pre­sen­ta­tion, Michelle Wood, a grad­u­ate of Leonard­town High School who is vis­it­ing home for sum­mer break from col­lege, asked Wine­grad what changes in par­ti­san­ship for en­vi­ron­men­tal fund­ing he has ob­served over the years.

“I would say right now the en­vi­ron­men­tal move­ment is at its low­est ebb since I’ve been an adult,” Wine­grad said. “What I would say has changed rad­i­cally is that the en­vi­ron­ment doesn’t mat­ter any­more in most elec­tions.”

When he was in the Mary­land leg­is­la­ture from 1978 to 1994, Wine­grad said he con­stantly worked with col­leagues from both par­ties and that kind of bi-par­ti­san­ship doesn’t hap­pen much any­more.

“The po­lit­i­cal will has wilted,” he said. “I would say right now it’s bro­ken down to par­ti­san lines that [the en­vi­ron­ment] has be­come a non-is­sue.”

In ad­di­tion, Wine­grad said peo­ple nowa­days are no longer con­nected to na­ture.

There are fewer peo­ple who fish, hunt and go swim­ming, he said. That dis­con­nec­tion with na­ture could also con­trib­ute to peo­ples’ dis­in­ter­est in the en­vi­ron­ment.

To re­store the bay, Wine­grad sug­gested every­one start by de­creas­ing in­di­vid­ual pol­lu­tion.

“I’m not try­ing to guilt any­body be­cause I live like you do,” he said. But “all of us need to pol­lute less.”

In ad­di­tion to in­di­vid­ual ef­forts, he sum­ma­rized other crit­i­cal el­e­ments to restor­ing the bay: re­quir­ing best man­age­ment prac­tices for agri­cul­tural pol­lu­tants and bet­ter an­i­mal ma­nure con­trol, chang­ing de­vel­op­ment pat­terns through state and lo­cal land use leg­is­la­tion with a no for­est net-loss pol­icy, re­quir­ing stormwa­ter retrofits, no net pol­lu­tion in new de­vel­op­ment and fix sep­tic sys­tems.

A for­mer state sen­a­tor lamented that agri­cul­tural runoff con­tin­ues to be a ma­jor pol­luter of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay, and said every­one needs to do their part to pol­lute less if lo­cal wa­ter­ways are go­ing to im­prove.

Ger­ald Wine­grad, who rep­re­sented the An­napo­lis area for 16 years, first as a del­e­gate and then as a state sen­a­tor, spoke about the state of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Tues­day at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land in an event hosted by the col­lege and the St. Mary’s River Wa­ter­shed As­so­ci­a­tion.

“I ran for of­fice be­cause of my en­vi­ron­men­tal­ism,” he said to the crowd of close to 40 peo­ple. “I ded­i­cated my work and my life to con­ser­va­tion and the en­vi­ron­ment.”

Now re­tired, Wine­grad taught cour­ses on bay restora­tion and wildlife man­age­ment at the Univer­sity of Mary­land.

“The best thing about this pre­sen­ta­tion is I’m not paid for by any­body. I’m not look­ing for a job. I don’t have to do any­thing but to tell the truth, which is what I al­ways did any­ways re­gard­less of the con­se­quences,” he said.

Wine­grad said his pre­sen­ta­tion was a call to ac­tion “be­cause we are not where we need to be” on restor­ing the bay.

The main rea­son that caused the bay’s de­cline was ex­ces­sive nu­tri­ents and sed­i­ments. If the au­di­ence learned noth­ing else, Wine­grad said he hoped they would walk away know­ing that “we have not ad­e­quately re­duced ex­ces­sive nu­tri­ents.”

In June, sci­en­tists es­ti­mated the size of “dead zones” in Ch­e­sa­peake Bay this sum­mer to be at nearly 1.9 cu­bic miles, larger than the av­er­age of 1.7 cu­bic miles recorded in the past three decades. Dead zones are caused by ex­ces­sive nu­tri­ent pol­lu­tion, pri­mar­ily from hu­man ac­tiv­i­ties such as agri­cul­ture and waste­water.

Ex­ces­sive nu­tri­ents can stim­u­late an over­growth of al­gae, which then sinks and de­com- poses in the wa­ter. That process uses oxy­gen in the wa­ter, leaves ar­eas of wa­ter with low oxy­gen and causes fish and other marine life to die or leave the area.

In ad­di­tion to cre­at­ing dead zones, al­gae also wors­ens wa­ter clar­ity, which makes it harder for bay grass to grow. And un­der­wa­ter grasses fil­ter out nu­tri­ents and sed­i­ment, re­duce ero­sion, and pro­vide habi­tat and pro­tec­tion for species like the blue crab.

“We need to bring back the grasses,” Wine­grad said.

In May, the Mary­land Depart­ment of Nat­u­ral Re­sources re­ported that un­der­wa­ter grass in the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay has in-

STAFF PHOTO BY DANDAN ZOU

For­mer state sen­a­tor Ger­ald Wine­grad speaks about the state of the Ch­e­sa­peake Bay Tues­day at St. Mary’s Col­lege of Mary­land.

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