Chesapeake Bay cleanup 'on track'

PoliticsEnvironmental IssuesU.S. Environmental Protection AgencyEnvironmental PollutionEnvironmental PoliticsMartin O'Malley

Gov. Martin O'Malley declared Monday that Maryland is 98 percent of the way to reaching its short-term "milestone" for accelerating the state's efforts to restore the Chesapeake Bay, while federal officials said all the bay watershed states generally are on track in boosting their cleanup efforts.

O'Malley made the announcement while in Richmond at a meeting of governors, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and others to assess progress in the regional effort to revive the bay. EPA officials said it appears, with six months to go, that all six bay states and the District of Columbia are on course to meet short-term goals set in 2009 for increasing pollution reductions by the end of this year.

"A tremendous amount of effort has been put forth by all the bay restoration partners since [we] met last year in Baltimore," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement released near the end of the meeting. Some states have made more progress than others, according to Jeff Corbin, Jackson's bay adviser, but even laggards have adjusted to make up their gaps in curtailing nutrient and sediment pollution.

Amid the upbeat reports, however, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell complained about the computer modeling EPA has used to assess what each state is doing to clean up the bay. And according to the Associated Press, he also reiterated concerns about the cleanup costs, which Virginia officials have put at $7 billion to $8 billion for their state through 2025, the deadline for taking all steps needed to restore the Chesapeake.

"What we all discussed candidly is how it this going to be paid for," McDonnell said after a closed luncheon with Jackson and other state and federal leaders. "We don't want to set goals and then set ourselves up for failure."

O'Malley acknowledged that funding is a challenge for Maryland as well, which faces a $500 million shortfall looming in the fund to finance planned upgrades of wastewater treatment plants. But he urged state and federal officials not to falter or become bogged down in technical disputes, according to those present.

"Cleaning up the bay is expensive," O'Malley said. "Letting her die is even more expensive, and we're not going to allow that to happen."

Baltimore Sunreporter Timothy B. Wheeler and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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