Maryland state Sen. Roy P. Dyson has blocked the appointment of St. Mary's County Commissioners President Thomas F. McKay to a state committee that advises legislators on environmental issues concerning the Chesapeake Bay.

Dyson (D-St. Mary's and Calvert) said he has stopped McKay's nomination to the Maryland Critical Areas Commission for the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coastal Bays because the Republican commissioner has little experience with environmental issues.

"This is not a dumping ground for politicians," Dyson said of the 27-member commission. "It's scientists who should be advising us on these issues."

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) wanted to nominate McKay to the Critical Areas Commission in his "green bag" appointments, so named because historically they have been toted down to the State House in a green bag. Dyson, as chairman of the Joint Committee on Critical Areas, the body to which the commission makes recommendations, can block appointments to that commission.

The commission meets once a month, and members serve without salary. The commission makes recommendations to lawmakers about land-use decisions affecting property near the coast.

McKay did not return a message left on his cell phone Tuesday.

Dyson said he has five or six candidates from the local science community in mind for the nomination. He will be interviewing them this weekend, he said, before he makes a recommendation to Ehrlich.

Dyson did not oppose the nomination of another Critical Areas Commission appointee with a political background: Charles County Commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R-La Plata). Ehrlich gave Mayer the appointment after the commissioner lost a protracted fight to be the replacement for Republican state delegate Thomas E. Hutchins. The Republican delegate resigned his legislative seat to join Ehrlich's Cabinet as head of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Dyson said Mayer's situation is different. McKay has been commissioners president for just eight weeks, Dyson said, and "he really needs to focus on that."

Ehrlich used to his green bag appointments to name 16 other Southern Maryland residents to various positions:

James C. Simpson, Charles County, Board for the Injured Workers Insurance Fund; John B. Norris Jr., St. Mary's County, Maryland Transportation Authority; former state delegate Samuel C. Linton, Charles, Transportation Department Board of Review; Thomas L. Davis, Calvert, Veterans Home Commission; Col. Mary Rozina Boyd, Charles, Veterans Home Commission;

Alice E. Jones, Calvert, County Board of Elections; Jay W. Lounsberry, Calvert, County Board of Elections; Durward Duane Regan, Calvert, County Board of Elections; Edwin Franklin King, Calvert, County Board of Elections; Kenneth M. Anderson Jr., Calvert, County Board of Elections; James R. Anderson, Charles, County Board of Elections;

Francis J. Mason, Charles, County Board of Elections; Katherine O'Malley-Simpson, Charles, County Board of Elections; Fern G. Brown, Charles, County Board of Elections; Helen B. Sullivan, Charles, County Board of Elections; and Christopher J. Canigilia, Charles, State Board of Education.

Tourists Open Wallets

Local tourism officials are not sure whether more people are visiting Southern Maryland, but they are certain tourists are spending more money, according to a regional tourism agency's annual report.

Tourists spent more than $162 million in Southern Maryland and generated about $9.38 million in tax revenue for local governments in 2001, according to the Southern Maryland Travel and Tourism Committee.

In 2000, tourists spent about $160.2 million in the area, generating $9.19 million in tax revenue for Charles, St. Mary's and Calvert counties, said Joanne Roland, director of tourism in Charles. The increase may have been greater if not for the dampening effect of Sept. 11 for the last quarter of 2001, officials said.

"Everybody took a hit with 9/11," said Kim Cullins, marketing and program specialist for the museum division of the St. Mary's County Department of Recreation and Parks. "After 9/11, we were trying to capitalize regionally by trying to get people to come and visit what was in their own back yard."

Tourists spent about $2.5 million less in 2001 than in 2000 in St. Mary's. At the same time, money spent in Charles and Calvert went up about $3 million and $2 million, respectively.

Tourism committee officials presented an upbeat annual report to county commissioners in Charles and St. Mary's counties Tuesday. Officials from all three counties said they are forging ahead with plans to obtain state "heritage area" status for Southern Maryland.

Tourism has become increasingly important to Southern Maryland, where county governments are trying to diversify their economic engines. Currently, Southern Maryland is the only region in the state where counties have formed a tourism partnership. The travel and tourism committee now has a budget of about $30 million, and it spent more than $25 million to promote Southern Maryland last year.

A Blizzard of Costs

Calvert County survived the weekend thaw without significant flooding, but there is no way that the county will escape the large price tag for digging out from the storm.

Robert L. Taylor, the county's director of public works, said earlier this week that staffers are still trying to determine the cost of county labor and materials, not to mention private contractors. All that's certain is that the cleanup was costly -- perhaps well in excess of $200,000.

"I think we're talking a quarter-million easily," Taylor said Tuesday.

County officials hope that some of the cost will be reimbursed by other funding sources since Maryland was declared a disaster area because of the snow.

Calvert residents, like those in other jurisdictions, had been worried about flooding caused by runoff from melting snow. Though county work crews kept a close eye to make sure the snowmelt was reaching drainage ditches, there was not much they could do for private property owners except to issue warnings, such as to keep gutters open.

Luckily, few problems occurred.

"It kind of worked its way out," Taylor said.

School Board Meeting Changed

The Charles County Board of Education has scheduled a monthly meeting April 1 -- a change from its regular meeting time on the second Tuesday of each month.

Officials said the change was necessary because several school board members will be out of town the next week attending a National Board of Education Conference.

Scenarios for Bay

A scientific panel recently mapped out three possible scenarios for the future of the Chesapeake Bay, tracking the effect of pollution and population growth during the next three decades.

The report, issued earlier this month by the Chesapeake Bay Program's Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee, examines the outcomes likely if trends continue, if environmental objectives are met, or if feasible alternatives are implemented.

The human population in the watershed will reach 19 million by 2030, the study projects. Under current trends, about 2 million acres of farm and forest land will be lost to sprawl by 2030, but feasible alternatives could reduce the loss by 80 percent, the study found.

The population increase also could offset gains made during the past 15 years in reducing pollution from nutrients, such as nitrogen, if the region does not meet current commitments to limit pollution from agriculture, sewage-treatment facilities, power plants and automobiles, the authors found. Excessive nutrients cause algae blooms, which can steal oxygen from the water, keep light from reaching underwater plants and kill fish.

Titled "Chesapeake Futures," the report represents the work of scientists and technical experts who examined several models and assessments to make their projections, including mid-Atlantic climate models and regional projections for agriculture, forestry and land development.

By meeting nutrient reduction targets and making improvements called for in federal and multistate agreements -- including the Chesapeake 2000 agreement signed by Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and the District -- the bay would improve to how it was in the 1970s, with more oxygen in bottom waters and better water clarity. The abundance of underwater grasses, fish or shellfish seen in earlier times, however, would not be restored, the authors found.

More aggressive programs, combined with such new technologies as hybrid vehicles and a stronger environmental ethic, could lead the bay to return to the productivity of the 1950s by 2030, the report concludes.

Staff writer Theola Labbe and the Associated Press contributed to this report.