ANNAPOLIS – A bill that would help private landowners pay for the cost of controlling phragmites — a fast-spreading wetlands reed that crowds out native Maryland species — is close to final passage.
The Senate Tuesday gave tentative approval to the House bill, setting the stage for a final vote later this week.
The bill, sponsored by Del. Michael Weir, D-Baltimore County, requires the Department of Natural Resources to set up a program paying landowners 50 percent of the cost to manage phragmites.
The reeds have some benefits, stabilizing shorelines and filtering sediments and pollutants. But they grow so densely that other plants, as well as animals, lose their habitat, experts say.
But disagreements over the funding mechanism could block the measure’s passage.
The House version called for funds to come from the DNR’s Wildlife Management Protection Fund and the Department of Environment’s Wetlands Compensation Fund and Nontidal Wetlands Compensation Fund. But the Senate amended the bill, ruling out use of the Nontidal Wetlands Fund.
During last year’s session, the General Assembly considered similar legislation, but the two chambers never agreed on what funds would cover the program.
If Weir’s bill is killed, a phragmites cost-share program still may be adopted.
Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, had introduced a bill identical to Weir’s original measure. It passed the Senate, but has not yet come to a vote on the House floor. -30-