CENTREVILLE -- Queen Anne's County Commissioners opted to wait rather than contribute funds to the TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load) coalition initiated by Dorchester County and the law firm Funk and Bolton.
Charles MacLeod and Jefferson Bloomquist, two advocates of the coalition, met with commissioners at the Nov 13 meeting on behalf of Dorchester County and the law firm to discuss support for a group challenging the costs of Chesapeake Bay cleanup, but commissioners felt it necessary to discuss the matter further before pledging support for the effort.
"As elected officials we need to take a look at this." Commission President Steve Arentz said. "We do understand what you're talking about. I think it shows us some of what we need to learn also."
MacLeod and Bloomquist debated the effectiveness of current Bay cleanup projects and offered new options to fixing what has become a major concern for the state of Maryland[-] a major beneficiary of the Bay. According to MacLeod, the state should be focusing their attention on the ill-effects the Conowingo Dam is having on the water quality of the Bay.
"For 30 years, there has been a lot of public money spent, time and attention spent, to improve water quality of the Bay," MacLeod said. "Yet, the water quality of the Bay has not substantially improved… (and) there has been hundreds of millions of dollars spent in the name of improving water quality.
"When you do the research and you start looking closely at the model and a lot of the decision making, what we have found is the Conowingo Dam was not efficiently accounted for."
MacLeod said runoff from Pennsylvania farms into the Susquehanna River -- one of the Bay's largest tributaries -- has collected at the base of the dam which sits at the point in Maryland where the mouth of the river empties into the Bay. That sediment, MacLeod said, is no longer being trapped and instead, flows into the Bay, neutralizing other Bay recovery efforts.
Currently, Cecil, Kent, Frederick, Caroline and Alleghany counties have agreed to join Dorchester County in aiding the coalition. According to Bloomquist, Maryland must put pressure on Pennsylvania to do more in fighting agriculture pollution runoff into the river.
Commissioner David Dunmyer disagreed, arguing both states have made equal efforts in managing pollution entering the Bay.
"Pennsylvania is being held to the same requirements to meet the TMDL to the Susquehanna as Maryland," Dunmyer said. "I am an appointed member of a local government advisory committee for the Chesapeake Bay, and I sit with these Pennsylvanians quarterly, and they're doing it."
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a Bay restoration group in attendance at the meeting, argued against the coalition. In a letter addressed to the commissioners, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Alison Prost wrote that information provided by Dorchester County and Funk and Bolton was both misleading and inaccurate, arguing money spent on dealing with the dam could "lead to years of futile and costly litigation."
Dunmyer, however, was quick to note agricultural pollution via the Susquehanna River is still a major crisis for the Bay and should be addressed.
"It's what's coming down from the Susquehanna to (the dam) that is really at issue now because that just flows right over and into the Bay," Dunmyer said.