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Maryland Attorney General visits OC, coastal bays - July 13, 2012

OCEAN CITY -- Doug Gansler says Worcester County's coastal bays are often forgotten — but that's only because we have it pretty good out here.

"One of the reasons why it is often forgotten in terms of regulatory agencies, and even government, is because there's so many good things happening here," said Maryland's Attorney General on Thursday. "If one day you woke up, and you drove across the bridges of Ocean City, and it looked like the Boston Harbor used to look, with trash floating all over the place, people would turn their attention to it more."

What's the state's top legal officer doing taking a boat tour of our coastal waterways? Environmental law enforcement.

He and his staff, including some attorneys who specialize in environmental protection, spend a full day on site, out on the water, to see things firsthand. They'll also meet early with local elected officials, and later speak with citizens to hear what issues are important to them when it comes to water quality.

Gansler's visit to Ocean City was the 18th of his administration to a waterway or rivershed.

"We're in charge of enforcement and regulation of the environment," Gansler said. "You know, not everything needs to be resolved in a lawsuit. The more we can do collaboratively, the better, and then there's fewer polluters to go after."

Gansler also said he'd like to see a power plant built somewhere on the Shore, probably in Somerset County, that would take chicken manure and process it into an energy source.

Farmers would sell excess manure to the power companies and use only what they need as fertilizer. It also keep excess nutrients out of the watershed.

"In my view, it's the biggest thing we could do for the bay in the last 40 or 50 years, if we can get a major power plant to come here, not to mention the jobs associated with it," Gansler said.

For his tour of the Assawoman and Isle of Wight bays, Gansler and his staff departed on a 75-passenger boat from De Lazy Lizard restaurant at First Street. It went around Skimmer Island, under the Route 50 bridge, down the north edge of Assateague, and back.

Dave Wilson, executive director of the Maryland Coastal Bays Program, was the de facto tour guide.

"What you're normally used to seeing is a lot of growth and development. But as soon as you head south of that bridge, it is true wilderness. A really, really beautiful part of this world, and of Maryland.

Wilson called our coastal barrier island system the most diverse ecosystem in the state.

"So we're really proud of that, and we work really hard to protect that," he said

Bill Dennison of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science said Worcester's coastal bays aren't nearly in as bad a shape as Chesapeake Bay.

"We have a chance to really make a difference, and there's a lot left to save here," he said. "We're not in restoration mode, we're in protective mode."


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