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Chesapeake Bay watershed states call for federal support


Sections of the Aberdeen Proving Ground facility are separated by Chesapeake Bay waters. APG is the number one employer in Harford County, Maryland. (The Daily Record/Lizzy McLellan)

ANNAPOLIS — Leaders of states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed called Thursday for continued federal support of the nation’s largest estuary.

The Chesapeake Executive Council signed a resolution urging federal support and also elected Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan as its new chairman.

“As a lifelong Marylander who has always had a love for the Chesapeake Bay, as a governor, and now as a chairman of this Chesapeake Executive Council, I will remain passionately committed to this cause,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement. “As we all look ahead, I believe that successful Bay restoration must include innovative financing, transparent public-private partnerships, and market-based solutions that drive costs down and promote new technologies.”

The council’s resolution comes after President Donald Trump eliminated funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in his initial budget proposal. Congress restored the $73 million, but the president’s initial proposal has angered bay supporters, who are worried about future budget actions.

Supporters say the program is critical to cleaning up the bay, because it’s a unique regional partnership among neighboring states that has coordinated bay restoration since 1983.

State legislators were joined by environmental activists in front of the Maryland State House before the six-state council met. Some Maryland Democrats criticized Hogan before the council’s meeting for not being more outspoken against Trump’s environmental proposals from the start.

“It’s unfortunate that we had to wait two months for the governor to act until there were other people surrounding him so he wouldn’t be isolated,” said state Sen. Paul Pinsky, a Prince George’s County Democrat.

Pinsky also pointed to some controversial dismissals and demotions of bay scientists who have worked for years at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources under the Hogan administration.

But Shareese Churchill, a Hogan spokeswoman, said the governor is committed to protecting the environment. She noted state investments in bay restoration efforts and his decision to fully fund the state’s Program Open Space, a state land conservation and recreation program.

“It’s a shame some would rather engage in partisan game-playing rather than work with our administration to achieve even greater environmental successes for our citizens,” Churchill said.

Hogan also announced plans to convene a second Conowingo Dam Summit this summer to bring together scientists, local and regional leaders and environmental regulators to address the problem of sediment flowing from the Susquehanna River over the dam and into the bay.

The Chesapeake Executive Council includes the governors of Maryland, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the mayor of the District of Columbia.