Maryland is now addressing the last piece of our Bay restoration plan – how to account for new growth and development that threatens to add more pollution to our local waters, even as State and local governments make investments to restore them. To succeed, this policy must meet two goals. First, new growth should be managed to ensure that it creates the least pollution possible and produces the most economic benefits. Second, the policy for offsetting those new sources of pollution must be verifiable, transparent and enforceable in order for us to truly achieve a healthy Bay and local waters for our residents.
Maryland is projected to lose 400,000 acres of rural lands in the next fifteen years. Large-lot development in these rural areas pollutes significantly more than compact development served by water and sewer. Compact development of just eight houses per acre produces almost a quarter of the pollution compared to building one house per acre. And Maryland’s Department of the Environment estimates that if all new development projected to occur on well and septic by 2030 was, instead, serviced by advanced wastewater treatment plants, the total anticipated load from development would be reduced by more than half.
Although the draft policy is generally on the right track, there are several areas of concern that must be addressed. It is critical that the accounting for growth policy is strong enough to meet our ultimate goal of clean local waters.