CENTREVILLE – Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) wants you to drink one for the Chesapeake Bay.
Later this week, the state will start selling bottles of water taken from a Maryland aquifer to raise money for Chesapeake Bay restoration – one of two public-private agreements Ehrlich announced Tuesday to clean the bay.
The other agreement focuses on cleaning up the Corsica River, a six-mile-long Chesapeake Bay tributary in Queen Anne’s County. That $19.4 million plan brings together a coalition of federal and state agencies, as well as nonprofits and private businesses.
The water, in bottles featuring a royal blue label designed by Maryland artist Tom Freeman, will be sold in stores and restaurants across Maryland beginning Saturday. Ninety-five percent of the proceeds from each bottle sold will go to support bay restoration.
“It’s Maryland water, so by definition it’s better than any other water,” Ehrlich said. A spokeswoman for Brick House Farms Water Co., the Ellicott City bottler that partnered with the state, said the water comes from an aquifer – an underground layer of porous rock that stores water – that runs beneath Howard County.
The state hopes to raise $180,000 from sales of the water in the program’s first year, eventually boosting that take to $400,000 annually, said Megan Evans, a spokeswoman for the Department of Natural Resources. She declined to provide specifics on the retail price of the water, saying that was up to the distributor and retailers.
Ehrlich did not go into detail about the Corsica River project, which he called “a grand experiment,” with lessons to be applied throughout the entire Chesapeake Bay watershed.
The long-term goal is to remove the Corsica from the Environmental Protection Agency’s “impaired waters” list within five years, the governor said.
The project will initially concentrate on reducing nutrient pollution and sediment runoff, and restoring bay grasses and oyster beds. The emphasis will be on finding tangible ways to track the river’s progress. “If you don’t measure, you’re not leading,” Ehrlich said.
Donald F. Boesch, president of University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science, said the university was proud to be part of the Corsica partnership and his researchers were “champing at the bit to actually test some of their ideas.”
William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said he was hoping to learn from this experiment by putting all the strategies to work on a single project. It’s about “everything, everywhere, everybody,” he said.
“It’s not just a federal government issue, it’s a state and local issue,” said EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson, who joined Ehrlich at Tuesday’s news conference. “The Chesapeake is a national treasure.”
Theodora Kramer, who farms 225 acres across from the patch of beach on the Corsica River where the governor held his news conference, said she’s “waiting to see where the pieces fall” before she makes judgment about the proposal.
“I want to be positive, but the governor has cut programs to help farmers” become more environmentally friendly, she said. And, she said she found the idea of selling bottled water to restore the bay to be a bit odd. With all the packaging involved, it’s “an environmental disaster,” Kramer said.