Thursday, July 19, 2007

Giving a voice to our maritime community

This past Monday night I introduced a bill to help foster and grow our county's valued maritime sector.

Bill No. 56-07, co-sponsored by Councilman Ed Middlebrooks, will create a countywide Maritime Advisory Board. This Board will help Anne Arundel's diverse maritime community speak with a unified voice and advise the County on issues that affect it. Doing so will benefit not only the maritime industry, but all of us who value our county's maritime character and quality of life.

Maritime industry in Anne Arundel County

Individually, many maritime businesses are small, locally-owned operations that employ just a handful of people. Collectively, the maritime indusry is a major economic force. According to the Boating 2000 report by the University of Maryland, Maryland's maritime industry generates a massive $1.6 billion economic impact statewide. Anne Arundel County alone generates $400 million, a full quarter of the statewide impact. This is not surprising considering that more boats are registered here than in any other county in Maryland.

Why do we need another County board?

Anne Arundel's maritime industry is well established but we cannot afford to take it for granted. Maritime businesses have to navigate more than the usual amount of regulations because they are located literally at the juncture where land meets water. County government impacts so many aspects of the industry, from zoning and permits to health and environmental regulations. That's why decision makers need to be informed and understand the effects of their decisions on our maritime community. This new Board will give the industry a platform from which to advocate for its concerns.

What about water quality?

With dead zones sadly becoming more common in our rivers and the Bay, people are becoming more concerned about our water quality. Maritime businesses have a special responsibility to be good stewards of the water. In recognition of this, the bill establishes that one of the Board's voting members shall be one of our county's RiverKeepers. Ensuring an environmental voice on the Board just makes good sense. After all, maritime businesses benefit too when our creeks and rivers are clean and safe and support aquatic life.

Next steps

Bill No. 56-07 is on the agenda for a public hearing and vote on Monday, August 6th. The council meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Arundel Center. People can sign in to testify beginning at 6:30 p.m. If and when the County Council adopts the bill, the County Executive will appoint the members. I am hopeful that the Board will be appointed and will start meeting by the end of this year.