Monday, August 31, 2009

Management of the Coastal Bays and Watershed

By Peter Andes

With the green movement now more than ever a highly visible effort, it is widely realized that steps must be taken to reverse the detrimental effects of pollution and increase the health of the environment. The book Shifting Sands, written in part by three Coastal Bays staffers, is an excellent resource for this, detailing the effective application of environmentally-friendly practices and laying out an overall plan that addresses the major problem areas.

The chapter of the book entitled “Management of the Coastal Bays and Watershed” calls for the reduction of air and water pollution, supporting local agriculture while decreasing fertilizer and pesticide use, and facilitating community restoration efforts. The particular details for each of these initiatives are extensively highlighted within the text as a comprehensive way to reach the overall goal of a healthy watershed.

The book begins by emphasizing the connection between a community and its environment before moving to cover different aspects that need to be addressed. An area is only as healthy as its air, land, and water, and due to over-fishing, pollution, and inadvertent neglect the health of the Coastal Bays has suffered. The text makes clear improvement will not be immediate but gradual as problems are remedied over time. It is crucial for the general public to be involved and aware of this effort to ensure its success.

The issue the book covers first is that of the watershed-wide Nutrient Reduction Action Strategy that is currently being developed in order to identify specific areas that require work. This involves implementing the county’s comprehensive plan and zoning code, as well as strengthening the enforcement of existing laws and many other steps elaborated on by the text. Regional collaboration is imperative for the effective undertaking of these activities.

Air quality, land management, and water quality are also covered in depth. A section is devoted to each, explaining their current status and recommending changes that would lead to improvements in their health. Of all the nitrogen inputs to the Coastal Bays 30 percent are atmospheric, formed by pollution from power plants, vehicles, industry, and other sources.

Energy conservation, alternative energy, and public transit are just some of the suggestions offered in Shifting Sands to address this situation. Land use is another major factor in watershed health as variations in use determine the amount of runoff as well as available habitat.

The text emphasizes development practices that will minimize land consumption through well planned environmentally sensitive practices, such as better planning with impervious surfaces to control runoff and reducing the number of septic systems that are put in place. Also provided is insight into actions that homeowners can take to improve water quality, such as encouraging marsh growth through the use of living shorelines and replacing lawns with native plants.

Shifting Sands makes highly evident the strong ties between the Coastal Bays community and its natural resources. Boating and many other aquatic entertainments are a favorite activity of both residents and visitors in the area. Worcester County depends on this revenue from tourism, an income that would be harmed considerably if those visitors no longer found our waterways a healthy and pleasant place for recreation.

A great multitude of other informative resources can be found in this chapter, outlining the steps that need to be taken to improve the health of our local ecosystem. Such in-depth analysis of the situation of our local area is priceless in the struggle for an environmentally sound watershed.

To purchase a copy of Shifting Sands call the Maryland Coastal Bays Program office at 41-213-BAYS.

Peter Andes just completed his second summer as an intern with the Maryland Coastal Bays Program. He left last week to begin his freshman year at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.

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