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Beitzel bill requires state constitution change

Local delegate’s proposal would keep Chesapeake Bay cleanup funds intact

From Staff Reports Cumberland Times-News

CUMBERLAND — Delegate Wendell Beitzel has filed a bill to amend the state constitution to ban the transfer of funds designated for Chesapeake Bay cleanup to other purposes.

“Each year, Maryland’s citizens are required to pay for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. This bill simply provides that if citizens are told that the fees they are paying is dedicated for bay restoration, then government should be required to use the funds only for this purpose,” Beitzel said Thursday.

There are proposals on the table to increase the state’s so-called flush tax, an annual fee toward bay cleanup.

The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund was established in 2004 for the purpose of providing funds for Chesapeake Bay cleanup, wastewater treatment plant upgrades, cover crop funds and septic system upgrades, Beitzel said.

“The stated needs for Bay restoration far exceed available funding and to raid the dedicated funding programs for other purposes is deplorable. These actions are a fundamental cause for the recommendation to double, triple or even quadruple the ‘flush tax.’ Now, the citizens of Maryland are now expected to pay more to remedy the situation,” Beitzel said in a press release.

During the 2011 session, Gov. O’Malley’s budget transferred $290 million from the Bay Restoration Fund and the Chesapeake & Atlantic Coastal Bays 2010 Trust Fund into the general fund, Beitzel said. Beitzel represents all of Garrett County and a portion of Allegany County.

A companion piece of legislation has also been filed by Sen. John Astle, D-Anne Arundel. Beitzel and Astle are also co-chairs of the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Delegate Kevin Kelly is a co-sponsor to a similar bill, HB 23, which would ban transfers from dedicated state funds to the General Fund except in limited circumstances. Both bills would need to pass a referendum to amend the state constitution. Kelly represents Allegany County and portions of Cumberland and other municipalities in the county.

At the same time, counties are working to comply with bay cleanup efforts. The Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans submitted to the EPA set details on how each jurisdiction will achieve necessary nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions by 2025, the target date set by the EPA.

Late last week, Maryland filed a plan to clean up the state’s water and the Chesapeake Bay with the federal Environmental Protection Agency. Allegany County submitted its plan in November.

Angie Patterson, a land use and planning engineer in the Department of Community Services, is in charge of coordinating Allegany County’s response to and implementation of the total daily maximum load (TMDL) requirements issued by the EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment. She works on a 20-member committee, including county and municipal officials along with other members.

TMDLs are “an estimate of the maximum amount of an impairing substance or stressor (pollutant) that a water body can assimilate without violating water quality standards,” according to the Maryland Department of the Environment.

Those numbers are being used to calculate the amount each county contributes to the pollutants entering the bay and provide a target number of how much the county must reduce its pollutant output.

More here.

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