Maryland, Virginia, & Pennsylvania Agree to Protect Chesapeake Bay, Slow

Urban Sprawl

June 29, 2000

Michael Johnsen

Chesapeake Bay states Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania signed an unprecedented agreement June 28, 2000, to to reduce by 30 percent the rate of urban sprawl in the bay region by 2012.

"This landmark agreement clearly recognizes that what happens on land directly affects the long-term health of the bay," Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening said. He was joined by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, Washington, DC Mayor Anthony Williams, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Bill Matuszeski, director of the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, said the accord is the first multistate agreement to tackle sprawl on a regional level. According to an article published by the Associated Press, he says much of the credit for the commitment to reduce sprawl -- the most controversial provision in the agreement -- goes to Glendening, who has made his "Smart Growth" plan to concentrate growth in developed areas a centerpiece of his administration.

The Associated Press article reports projections estimate an additional 3 million people will settle in the bay watershed by 2020. The 64,000-square-mile watershed is already home to more than 15 million people. The agreement permanently protects 1.6 million acres around the bay and restore 25,000 acres of wetlands by 2010. An overhaul to the last Chesapeake Bay agreement, signed in 1987, the agreement commits the states to further reductions in levels of nutrient runoff (nitrogen and phosphorous) from non-point sources such as farms. It will also focus on 3,600 species of plants and animals in the nation's largest estuary.

"The way we will judge our success is not by water clarity," said Peter Marx, a spokesman for the EPA's Chesapeake Bay Program, "the standard will be how the living creatures respond."

Environmentalists supported the agreement. Vice president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Mike Hirshfield, notes the agreement improves on the 1987 accord by setting specific numerical goals such as increasing the oyster population ten times by 2010, though the increased is based on a 1994 population count when oyster numbers were low from a parasite infection. The popular Maryland blue crabs, whose population has been relatively low in recent years, will be set next year. The accord also addresses a loophole in the federal Clean Water Act that allows 100 industrial sites in the bay watershed to release waste chemicals into the bay and its tributaries.

The agreement wasn't completely harmonious, however. Virginia Gov. Gilmore, who has constantly clashed with Glending on growth issues, refused to sign the agreement for six months, demanding that land-use decisions should be controlled on a more local level that the state. Initially, the agreement called for a 30 percent reduction of sprawl in each state. He agreed to sign the accord after this was changed to apply to the