KENT NARROWS – Attorney General Doug Gansler toured the Wye River and met with local students and environmental leaders Wednesday as part of his fifth annual Chesapeake Bay Environmental Watershed Audit.
The audit, published annually on Earth Day, includes detailed accounts from visits to four different areas around the bay each year.
Gansler began the third stop of his 2012 audit with a boat tour of the Wye River led by Tom Leigh, the Miles-Wye Riverkeeper. Leigh stressed the importance of clean agriculture, living shorelines and “no discharge zones.”
Leigh said it is important to protect local farms and prevent them from being sold to developers whose projects would produce more harmful runoff than the farms.
“The problems that face the local water here … they come from the land,” Leigh said. “We’d rather keep the farmers farming than have them kicked off their land.”
Gansler and Leigh agreed that implementing no discharge zones is one of the easiest, cost-effective ways to begin improving the bay’s health.
A no discharge zone is a portion of water where it is illegal for boaters to dump sewage from their vessels into the water. In one of these zones, they would instead store waste in a holding tank on board their vessel and take it to a pumping station on shore to have it safely removed and sent to a water treatment plant.
Gansler attempted to pass a bill in 2010 that would create a blanket no discharge zone for the entire Chesapeake Bay. However, it did not pass as a result of pushback from commercial boaters.
“These are people who use the water for their livelihood … they should want the water to be clean and safe,” Gansler said. “This is a completely controllable pollution that would take minimal cost to prevent.”
After the boat tour, Gansler and his colleagues met with students and local environmental leaders at Chesapeake College.
Greg Farley, director of the Center for Leadership in Environmental Education, expressed his pride when he heard Gansler would be visiting to hear about Chesapeake’s environmental initiatives.
“I jumped at the chance,” Farley said. “It is important to keep people informed of what we’re doing.”
Farley said the visit paired perfectly with Gansler’s tour of the Wye River.
“This is a natural marriage since we’re on the headwaters of the Wye,” Farley said.
Austin Gallagher, 19, founded the environmental club on campus and spoke to Gansler about the projects that are planned around campus to improve environmental awareness.
Gallagher said his biggest project is to establish hiking trails in the woods around campus to raise awareness and clean up the area’s streams.
“I want people to see the tires in the streams and the orange water,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to see what we can do as a campus.”
Gansler has visited Youghiogheny River, the coastal bays and the Miles-Wye River areas of the bay to compile information for the 2012 audit, and will visit a section of the Potomac River later this year.