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January 2014

Maryland's Oversight of Local Runoff Pollution Control Efforts Falls Short

StormwaterCITY OF PALO ALTO CAThere are lots of things we can do to clean up the Bay, but the most basic step is to simply enforce environmental regulations already on the books.

The sad fact that this sometimes does not happen in Maryland with regard to urban and suburban runoff pollution -- the only major source of pollution that is increasing in the Chesapeake Bay -- was revealed today's edition of The Baltimore Sun.

The Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) has not reviewed any local government’s enforcement of runoff pollution control laws since 2006, despite the fact that the department by law is required to conduct the reviews every three years, the newspaper reported.

MDE has not checked on Carroll County’s efforts to control polluted runoff from new development in 22 years –- since 1992, according to The Sun. Baltimore County’s stormwater enforcement program hasn’t been reviewed by the state since 1994, and Baltimore City’s since 1995. (MDE's response to this report is at the bottom of this article.)

"We can pass whatever [rules] we want and have them written on paper," Alison Prost, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, told The Sun. "But if counties aren't following them, we have negative impacts."

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Remembering When the Chesapeake Bay Used to Freeze in the Winter

FrozenbayChesapeakeBayMaritimeMuseumJessie Marsh is a veteran boat captain on Smith Island whose family has kept a keen eye on the Chesapeake Bay’s weather for some 300 years.

He vividly recalls the last time the Bay froze over: in the brutal winter of 1977.

“Back then, you knew you were going to have a couple weeks at least in the winter when the island was frozen in –- completely locked in with ice, so nobody could get in or out, and no ferries were running,”  said Marsh, a former waterman who is now Senior Manager of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Island Education Programs.  

Jessie Marsh“In the winter of 1976-1977, we had the biggest freeze in my lifetime,” Marsh said. “Smith Island was froze in for nine weeks straight.”

Marsh was 12 years old.  He remembers that school was cancelled for a long time, because the teacher could not get from the mainland to the island.  So Marsh and his friends built bonfires on the ice, skated around on the harbor, and hunted for the longest icicles.

Governor Marvin Mandel sent in helicopters with supplies. But Marsh and his brothers and sisters had plenty to eat. His said his parents always prepared for isolation in the winter on the small island. They stacked cans of food under the beds and in closets, and kept a pile of coal in the back yard as an emergency backup source of heat.

“This one morning we woke up, and there these giant white walls on the whole west side of the island,” Marsh recalled. “The ice on the main part of the Bay had broken up in the wind, and the westerly winds had driven it onto the shore. The ice had piled up, and they looked like ice burgs, but they were actually ice piles. They were as high as 40 feet tall, walls of ice on the whole west side of the Island.”

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