Congressman Harris-Right For A Change

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Congressman Harris has been a strong voice impeding the restoration of Chesapeake Bay since he joined Congress. He has consistently sided with the Agribusiness Lobby led by the American Farm Bureau Federation, the Fertilizer Institute and the Corn Growers Association. So it is a shock to hear him talk about the Bay as a National Treasure and creator of jobs in recommending the NOAA study of algal blooms. I asked two experts on Bay pollution for an opinion about this research. There responses follow:

It is our perspective that there are important things in the world of toxic algal blooms and hypoxia that remain to be studied; that federal assistance for such studies is appropriate and necessary; and that NOAA is the appropriate agency to receive the funds for such studies, particularly in salt and estuarine aquatic environments. However, the need for additional studies must not be used as an excuse to preclude action on what we do know.

Studying algal blooms from space (aerial photos or high res satellite imagery), calibrated with in situ observations, is a valid approach to substantiate the spatial/temporal extent and location of poor water quality. Showing where blooms occur can help point to the terrestrial nutrient sources that fuel the blooms. However, this research shouldn’t get funded by diverting funds from much needed reductions of N and P losses from land (septic/wastewater plant upgrades, winter cover crops, buffers, fertilizer restrictions, etc.).

Both join in urging Congressman Harris to get behind current efforts to implement the TMDL program which shows great promise in reducing Bay pollution and is opposed by the Agribusiness Lobby.

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