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My Oil Spill Advisory Committee minority report

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

Posted on January 23, 2003:

Senator Dyson Consider this my Steven Spielberg-Tom Cruise version of a minority report. While maybe not as entertaining, it certainly is more important than a feature film set in the future.

This minority report is in contrast to the one currently being endorsed and presented to the committee by the trustees who prepared it. I have been proud to serve on -- the Patuxent River Oil Spill Citizens Advisory Committee.

The report suggests spending a substantial amount of money in the Midwest to restore a breeding ground for ruddy ducks, 553 of which sadly were killed due to the oil spill.

Needless to say, sending this money to the Midwest has raised the ire of not only myself, but many of my constituents.

The loss of any wildlife was a terrible thing due to this corporate blunder by Pepco at the Chalk Point facility in Southern Prince George’s County. That eyesore on the otherwise beautiful Patuxent River spilled more than 126,000 gallons into Swanson’s Creek and the Patuxent River destroying many innocent wildlife and other natural habitat.

The Trustees generally have done a good job working on recommendations how to distribute government funds to compensate for recreational and natural damage that occurred due to this irresponsible spill.

However, I have some major disagreements with the final report. For some unfathomable reason, the Trustees are recommending spending nearly $600,000 to restore the ruddy duck nesting habitant in the Prairie Hole Region of the Upper Midwest for the “restoration and permanent protection of ruddy ducks.” The report goes on to state that ruddy ducks use the Chesapeake Bay region “only for a few months on their migration.”

Yet, the Trustees have decided to spend $590,000 to preserve an obscure breeding ground thousands of miles away from where the oil spill occurred for a species that is not endangered and is not a popular duck among hunters.

The statistics back me up. In 2002, 79,200 ruddy ducks were tracked by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nationwide. In 1999, 84,000 were tracked.

Of the total of 151,000 ducks harvested last year in Maryland, only 5,700 (or .37 percent) were ruddy ducks. By contrast, 57,000 mallards were harvested.

I do not understand why we can’t preserve our state’s own wetlands since we have lost 400 acres or about 40 acres per year in the last decade.

Something else troubling to me is the lack of funding Calvert County is receiving from these monies. Calvert Commissioner Robert “Bobby” Swann, also a member of the committee, told me that he was “very disappointed” with the amount Calvert County is getting. He estimates that out of $400,000 in recreational funding, Calvert, one of the areas heaviest hit by the spill is only getting $50,000 of the pie and some areas not affected at all by the spill -- in Prince George’s County -- are receiving recreational funding from this pot.

The Trustees definitely need to take this plan back to the drawing board. Instead of restoring a Midwestern breeding area for an unendangered species, we need to fund areas in Maryland where we can restore non-tidal and tidal wetland.

And money going to areas not affected by the oil spill is wrong. We need to take that money away from these projects and give it to those areas that were affected. This report was done with good intentions and with a lot of care. But it is not adequate. It needs to be reworked.

[ Return To Senator Roy Dyson's Newsletter ]

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