I received a fascinating call the other day from a gentleman with first-hand experience concerning the State of Maryland’s initiative to save the Chesapeake Bay.
He said he supports the bay cleanup, as I think a lot of us do, but pointed out an area where it has gone too far. That area would be in Garrett County, where he said the state helped pay for a $12,000 upgrade to his son’s septic system. This and similar improvements are manifestations of the state’s “flush tax” that was passed by the legislature several years ago.
We agreed that the flush tax is not ideal, but seeing ourselves as conservationists and all, we understood why such measures might be needed.
Deep Creek Lake lies to the West of Keyser’s Ridge, which in Western Maryland more or less forms what’s known as the Eastern Continental Divide. That means that water to the west of Keyser’s Ridge is not part of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, but, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, “within the Mississippi River watershed.”
So it seemed to us that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources might tell the Maryland Department of the Environment that it can spend all the money it wants throughout much of Garrett County, but it’s not going to mean a fig to the Chesapeake Bay.
That was my initial thought, at least. Then I got to thinking about the C&O Canal. Stick with me here.
As my first witness, I would like to call a Mr. George Washington to the stand.
It was George Washington — or if not him, someone like him — who wanted to build a canal from the Eastern Seaboard clear through to Chicago. Which, come to think of it, might not have existed at the time, but you get the idea.
This predated rail traffic, so a canal boat would have been about the only way to get rough, unfinished frontier products such as furs, coal, lumber and Lou Holtz, all the way to Eastern population centers.
The original plan, true story, was not for the canal to stop at Cumberland, but for it to continue up and over the Allegheny Front (i.e., Keyser’s Ridge) and out along the Allegheny Plateau and points west.
Fast forward to today’s world where, even with a Congress that would have turned the “Tastes Great/Less Filling” debate into thermonuclear warfare, I think we can all agree on three things:
1. America needs jobs.
2. Western Maryland needs tourists.
3. The Chesapeake Bay needs a break.
Everyone chatters away about the Founding Fathers these days, so what could be more satisfying that to pay them tribute by finally completing the C&O Canal all the way across the Allegheny Mountains?
Think of all the people this would employ. And think of all the people who would come each year to view one of the new marvels of the modern world that isn’t located in Las Vegas.
But the main benefit is that we here in Western Maryland could drain all of our nonpoint source pollution and pipe it into the canal and over the Mountains where it would become the Gulf of Mexico’s problem.
Give Louisiana’s oysters a taste of some good ole Maryland nutrients.
After the Deepwater Horizon, they might even welcome the change.
Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 6997, or via email at email@example.com.