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East Coast bay pledge is wielded after vote

Environmental groups follow up the election by reminding officials of their vow to mend the Chesapeake ecosystem.

November 25, 2006|From the Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Grass-roots environmental groups are urging newly elected political leaders to take seriously the task of cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay or risk losing it as a thriving ecosystem.

River-protection advocates representing Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., have signed a Declaration for Our Watersheds, which calls on state and federal officials to honor cleanup commitments outlined in the Chesapeake 2000 pact. In that agreement, officials pledged to reduce pollution from sewage treatment plants and from farm and storm-water runoff by 2010.

Many pollution-reduction goals are not on pace to be met, mostly because of a lack of money, said David Bancroft, the president of the Alliance of the Chesapeake Bay, an advocacy group that organized the declaration.

For instance, Bancroft said, states in the watershed have planted only 5,000 miles of riparian forest buffers -- far short of the 45,000-mile goal for the bay and its rivers by 2010.

Bancroft said there was no money for the rest of it, and he was concerned that there was also no inclination.

The more time it takes, he said, the more perilous conditions become for crabs, oysters and other bay life.

The declaration was unveiled last weekend at a conference in Shepherdstown, W.Va. That it came out so soon after this month's election is not coincidental. The Chesapeake Executive Council, which includes the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania and the mayor of Washington, sets much of the policy and financing priorities for bay restoration. All of the leaders who will be on the council in January will have terms extending into 2010.

The declaration comes soon after the release of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation's State of the Bay report, which found slight improvements but still gave the bay failing grades in key areas.

Foundation officials warned that environmentalists would hold government officials accountable in the 2010 elections.

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