Press Release

BALTIMORE, MD (November 1, 2012) – Maryland Secretary of the Environment Robert M. Summers today released the following statement regarding press conference at the Conowingo Dam:

“We are on the brink of an historic cleanup and restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. After decades during which voluntary restoration goals were set but not met, we are now moving forward with clear requirements and real deadlines. Yes, there are costs associated with this progress, but now is not the time to waver in this commitment. We must continue to move forward and restore the precious natural resource that is the Bay.

Maryland has the most to win from a cleaner, healthier Bay and the most to lose should we walk away from our cleanup plan. The best action that we can take is to move ahead with the pollution reduction strategies in our Watershed Implementation Plan. This plan is based on the best science available – science that is studied as a model throughout the United States and the world. The plan includes strategies to reduce polluted stormwater runoff and upgrade septic systems and sewage treatment plants. These actions mitigate the impact of all storms, including ones such as Hurricane Sandy.

It is well-established that storm events are a major contributor of nutrient and sediment loading to the Bay from all of the Bay’s tributaries – not just the Susquehanna River. This has been taken into account in the Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) and the Watershed Implementation Plans.

The Susquehanna River contributes 46 percent of the nitrogen, 26 percent of the phosphorus and 33 percent of the sediment to the Bay. These percentages include the pollution from major storm events. The Bay TMDL requires New York and Pennsylvania to control their relative shares of this load, and these states are also implementing Watershed Implementation Plans to control their pollution.

Make no mistake: The key to restoring the Bay and its tributaries lies in reducing the input of pollution from sources throughout the watershed. Over time, as the watershed is cleaned up and historic deposits of pollution like those found behind Conowingo Dam are diminished, storms will have less and less impact on a healthier and more resilient Bay.

Although it was a devastating Hurricane, particularly to the north, in Maryland Sandy did not have anything even close to the impact last year of Tropical Storm Lee. Tropical Storm Lee was Maryland’s second largest storm on record, exceeded only by Hurricane Agnes in 1972, and it produced significant flooding throughout the 27,000-square mile Susquehanna watershed.

Although they have a major impact, it is fortunate that storms of that magnitude are expected to occur only about once every 20 years. If we had the same attitude about repairing our homes and infrastructure because of the chance of a damaging hurricane as some appear to have about our Bay restoration efforts, no one would be living in New Orleans, Florida, North Carolina or, now with Sandy, in New Jersey or New York City. Those communities are certainly worth rebuilding – and so is the Chesapeake Bay and the groundwater, streams, rivers and reservoirs that make up the watershed and our fresh water supply.

For the health of the Bay and Maryland’s economy, we cannot afford to go backward. We must move forward with our Bay restoration efforts.”