ShoreRivers hosts state lawmakers

Delegates from the House Environment and Transportation tour University of Maryland’s Horn Point Lab as part of their visit to the Eastern Shore with ShoreRivers.

EASTON — In September, ShoreRivers hosted elected officials from the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee and the House Environment and Transportation Committee to learn about threats to Eastern Shore waterways and policy priorities for the 2020 Maryland legislative session.

According to a news release, senators and delegates also toured the Eastern Shore Conservation Center, visited a ShoreRivers agricultural restoration project and toured the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Oyster Hatchery.

ShoreRivers’ 2020 legislative priorities include initiatives on agriculture, development, enforcement, energy and infrastructure and fisheries management. This was a prime opportunity for committee members to learn more about environmental threats to water quality specific to the Shore, the release states.

“By hosting our environmental committee representatives, we hoped to forge new partnerships that will help us address threats to our rivers at the state level, where real systemic change can be made," said Director of Riverkeeper Programs and Choptank Riverkeeper Matt Pluta.

During their visit, state lawmakers showed specific interest in seeing the Phosphorus Management Tool fully implemented, which would reduce the application of chicken litter on phosphorous-saturated soils on the lower Eastern Shore by coordinating transport of the fertilizer to other farms, the release states. They also reportedly expressed interest in working with ShoreRivers to strengthen regulations that protect rivers from construction runoff in order to better protect against more frequent storms and heavier rain.

The group also discussed eliminating the backlog of outdated pollution permits, strategies to protect the oyster population and increasing the inclusiveness of diverse communities in efforts to achieve healthy waterways across Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“We received a great amount of feedback and discussion from the committee members about our policy priorities, and we look forward to working with these lawmakers on the issues that affect our rivers the most, including agricultural nutrient pollution, increased development pressure, and fisheries management,” said ShoreRivers Executive Director Jeff Horstman.

Additionally, ShoreRivers presented to the Chesapeake Bay Commission on impediments to achieving Environmental Protection Agency-mandated pollution reductions by 2025. The Phase III Watershed Implementation Plan defines the amount of pollution that needs to be eliminated and allocates it by geography and by source sector.

One third of Maryland’s nitrogen reductions will come from the agricultural sector on the Shore. In order to reach these reductions, Maryland needs to hire more personnel for Soil Conservation District offices, identify more funding for project design, and streamline the project implementation process, the release states.

ShoreRivers will play a significant role in putting projects in the ground to meet these pollution reduction goals and achieve healthier rivers, according to the release.

For more information, contact Pluta at mpluta@shorerivers.org or 443.385.0511 ext 203.

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