Report: Bay cleanup would boost economy

By the Associated Press
Monday, November 29, 2010; 12:16 PM

Cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay watershed would create thousands of jobs and spur millions of dollars in economic activity in Virginia, Maryland and surrounding states, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said in a report Monday.

Waiting to clean up the watershed will continue to create a drag on the economy that has cost billions of dollars in damage to the oyster fishing industry alone over the decades, the report said.

"The Chesapeake Bay was once one of the most productive and profitable estuaries in the world, but pollution now threatens to kill the golden goose," Ann Jennings, the foundation's executive director, said in a news release. "Dirty water is a job killer. Bay pollution is not only an ecological disaster; it's an economic one, too."

The report attempts to quantify how much pollution costs. For instance, it suggests damage to the bay's oyster population has cost Virginia and Maryland more than $4 billion over the past three decades.

The value of Virginia's seafood harvest dropped 30 percent from 1994 through 2004, while Maryland's commercial fish landings fell a like amount, according to the report.

"Due to declining numbers of blue crabs, Virginia and Maryland watermen, crab processors, wholesalers, grocers, and restaurants suffered losses of $640 million between 1998 and 2006," the report said.

Despite the losses, the report estimates the bay is worth $1 trillion.

The foundation contends cleaning up the bay would be worth millions as well.

For instance, the report cites University of Virginia research suggesting each dollar of government money spent to improve agricultural practices such as keeping animals out of streams would generate $1.56 in economic activity in the commonwealth. The report estimates improving agricultural practices also would create 12,000 temporary jobs.

Restoring the bay would inject new life into the water and the economy parts of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, New York, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Delaware and Washington, D.C., the report said. Upgrading sewers, septic systems and the like has already pumped millions of dollars into the economy and created employment opportunities for electricians, installers and others, the report said.

"Virginia and the bay states can have clean water and a growing economy," Jennings said. "Overwhelming majorities of Virginia voters understand that investments in clean water are investments in our economic future and our children's future."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company