A state Senate committee approved a bill yesterday that would extend Maryland's critical areas legislation beyond the shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.
The Senate Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee passed the bill by a 6-to-3 vote.
The committee rejected an amendment that would have excluded the Eastern Shore and Western Maryland from adopting critical area guidelines, which were designed to regulate shoreline development within 1,000 feet of the Chesapeake Bay.
Sen. Fred Malkus (D-Dorchester), the bill's sponsor, pushed the legislation to snare the areas of Maryland that he contends contribute most to pollution in the Chesapeake Bay, such as the Patuxent River.
Under the current law, 60 jurisdictions in the state must file development plans with the state's Critical Areas Commission to regulate growth near the bay.
The Malkus bill would expand the requirements to include localities near bodies of water that drain into the estuary.
"As I crossed the Choptank River this morning, all I could see was boat after boat making their living," Malkus told the committee. "The Patuxent is just the opposite," he said, adding that pollution from that river contaminates waters near the Eastern Shore.
"Sooner or later I'm going to win this fight," Malkus said. "Cleaning up the bay is everybody's job."
Sen. Idamae Garrott (D-Montgomery) voted against the bill, telling committee members the legislation is premature.
The Chesapeake Critical Areas Commission, which did not take a position on the bill but asked for more time to evaluate the current law before legislators expand it, is swamped, Garrott said later.
Commission members are working to meet a summer deadline to approve plans submitted from the 60 localities affected by the current law.