More Needs To Be Done for Tangier


Dear Editor:

Reading an article in the Crisfield-Somerset County Times of July 14, taken from the Bay Journal News Service, written by Jeremy Cox, I was astonished to read that Deal Island, Md., has a problem with marshes sinking into open water.

How many areas that have tributaries flowing into the Chesapeake Bay contribute to sinking marshes? Why has it taken years to acknowledge the problem of sinking marshes? Does having a degree in the study of erosion help identify the cause, the fix, the impact that sinking marshes has on the biodiversity of the bay’s marine life that need marshes to survive? Why, I ask again, why so long to take action?

The above has been written and questioned by journalists in every bay area of states where erosion is of concern. Pledges by politicians in those states and proposals that would, could, and should have been fruitful in aiding improvement to island marshes have died in legislative action.

The answer is simple: act on the problem! End the many studies by the numerous organizations that delay acting on a fix put forth by those affected by erosion problems, and end the cliche “Save the Bay.”

To acknowledge who is in charge, think and consider which organizations are involved in fixing the many environmental issues the Bay is up against.

First and foremost is the EPA, Corps of Engineers, Clean Air activists, wetlands protectors, and divisions of scientific analysts that use photographic scans that show areas of marshland that have given way to open water.

The reader of this article may have guessed, and rightly so, I’m a native of Tangier Island and over the years I’ve watched Tangier shrink in size due to actions, or the lacking thereof.

The Boss and Enemy of the Bay is the EPA. This organization is more interested in protecting harmful marsh dwellers than helping or allowing the destruction of the pest.

Granted, the water in the Bay is clearer and appears cleaner than it did a decade ago, but the Corps of Engineers and Virginia’s legislature have bowed to the EPA’s power, which is funded by the federal government and wealthy-elderly individuals who are led to believe watermen and farmers are the slayers of marine life.

If in doubt as to what I’ve written above, read on: when Col. Kelly was in charge of the District Corps, Virginia and Maryland, headquartered in Norfolk, Va., he and I had an issue concerning the usage of spoilage being dredged in Tangier’s waterway. At the time I was mayor of the island and my concern was the use of spoilage to protect our northern shore.

As expected, without help from our county representatives, state legislators, Corps of Engineers, my request to have spoilage pumped on said shoreline WAS DENIED. Instead, it was, as times before, pumped on the southern beach, where wind and tide would push the spoilage back into the channel.

The many tributaries that empty into the Bay outlets that are choked with eroded shoreline and sinking marshes need to be dredged. Smith Island had this problem and as I write, the island tributaries are being dredged.

When I was young, my cousin Jack and I could crawl under all of the houses on the island in search of soda bottles for their five-cent refundable value. After a hunt, we’d have to dust off. Now there are only four or five houses that one can crawl under and not emerge wet.

The fault of such change in the condition stated above are the restrictions placed on, not only Tangier, but other bay area towns by the EPA, abetted by the Corps of Engineers and other organizations that keep those they employ in a position that ensures an organization remains well-endowed.

Ignored is the one thing lacking in the makeup of these employees — COMMON SENSE!

The slogan “Save the Bay” refers to getting rid of the pollutions such as nitrogen, plastics, and other toxic waste that destroy marine growth. Just as fresh water can cause “Red Tide” and deprive oxygen from many areas of the Bay, an accumulation of nitrogen can poison marine life, and plastics snare many movable amphibious creatures.

So, let’s be honest about efforts put forth by those that say all studies with time will be successful. If only the assumption was true. However, I will dispel the progress hyped by the organizations active on reversing the decline of Chesapeake Bay.

Two areas of Bay vitalization need to be addressed.

First, the powers that exist ignored the barrier islands that protect shorelines baywide. For instance, Tangier Island had, but no longer has, islands to its north and each was named: Shells, Queen’s Ridge, Goose Harbor, Fishbone, Thurper, Long Tump, Hair Pin, and the Spit. Cannon (Uppards) and Shankes no longer resemble the protective barriers they were. And I may add, Watts Island in Tangier Sound is a quarter of its original size.

Second, gone with the islands are the grasses they protected and which were a sanctuary for hundreds of marine animals.

In conclusion, Virginia and Maryland share Chesapeake Bay. Ironically, Maryland gets grants, loans, and support from the aforementioned organizations. Tangier Island gets very little help and our county, Accomack, does little to help in any endeavor that would aid in the betterment of marshes and halt most erosion.

Tangier is, as are many bay towns, of historical value.

Comparing what Maryland does for Smith Island, Tangier’s elected state and county officials are a do-nothing group.

Gerald Wheatley
former Tangier mayor

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