They Blinded Me With Science

    What’s “the most important science policy issue” in Maryland?

    You probably have a pretty good idea already, but we thought you’d be interested in what the good folks at Popular Science magazine had to say. The magazine recently released a list of top science challenges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, from “keeping drinking water drinkable” in Alabama to “Combustion over coal” in Wyoming.

    Here’s what the magazine said about the Free State, verbatim:

    Maryland: Protecting the Chesapeake

    The Chesapeake Bay defines Maryland. The estuary—the third largest in the world—runs down the state’s middle, and generates billions of dollars each year in recreation, tourism, and seafood revenues. For decades, pollution from industries, farms, and cities in the watershed was so severe that crab and oyster populations shrank, spurring the EPA to mandate a cleanup in 2010. Halfway to the 2025 deadline, progress has been uneven: The watershed states (Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York—plus Washington, D.C.) have cut phosphorus and sediment, but, according to a July report, there’s still too much nitrogen. Common in fertilizer, the chemical washes off fields and causes oxygen-sucking algae blooms. The EPA has asked the states for specific nitrogen-reduction plans in the next phase of restoration.

    In some corners of the Bay watershed, cities are also struggling to cope with a 55 percent increase in heavy rains. Ellicott City, a nearly 250-year-old town in Howard County, has experienced two once-in-a-millennium-level floods within two years—the latest delivering 8.4 inches of rainfall and a 17-foot surge. Hydrologists suspect a number of factors are to blame, including the conversion of forests to pavement and a lack of flood infrastructure. Parts of Baltimore, Anne Arundel, and Prince George’s counties also dealt with increased flooding this year, but the state’s elected officials are divided over what to do. They passed a measure in 2012 requiring municipalities to reduce the risk by installing new flood-taming infrastructure paid for by a new “stormwater fee;” The law was repealed after critics maligned it as a “rain tax,” but environmental advocates and affected residents are pushing officials to reinstate it.

    [email protected]

    Josh Kurtz
    Co-founder and Editor Josh Kurtz is the leading chronicler of Maryland politics and government. He began covering the State House in 1995 for The Gazette newspapers, and has been writing about state and local politics ever since. He later became an editor at Roll Call, the Capitol Hill newspaper, and spent eight years at E&E News, an online subscription-only publisher of news websites covering energy and environmental issues. For seven of those years, he led a staff of 20 reporters at E&E Daily, which covers energy and environmental policy on Capitol Hill and in national politics. For 6 1/2 years he wrote a weekly column on state politics for Center Maryland and has written for several other Maryland publications as well. Kurtz has given speeches and appeared on TV and radio shows about Maryland politics through the years.