Corps of Engineers Report: New Understanding of Conowingo Dam Impact on Chesapeake Bay


The Chesapeake Bay may have water quality issues, but according to a new study, the Conowingo Dam doesn’t seem to be a major cause of them.

A multi-agency report found that the Conowingo Dam is not the biggest culprit for water quality issues affecting the bay, and dredging sediment from the reservoir behind the dam should not be considered a cost-effective solution.

Rather, the report points to nutrients associated with the sediment, washed down from states upstream, and from other tributaries to the Chesapeake, that pass through the dam and are contributing to dead zones in the bay.

The Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment, made public Thursday, details the movement of sediment and nutrients through the river, reports how they may affect the Chesapeake Bay, and offers suggestions for how to best manage the problem.

Suggestions include continued research and monitoring of nutrients, stormwater management, and a recommendation that the EPA integrate findings of this study into their water quality assessment of the bay.

“The overwhelming majority of pollution entering the bay from the Susquehanna River comes not from behind the Conowingo Dam but from the 27,000-square-mile watershed upstream,” Alison Prost, Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, said in a statement Wednesday.

According to measurements taken from 2008 to 2011, only 13 percent of sediment pollution came from the Conowingo Reservoir—the other 87 percent came from the greater watershed area, said Anna Compton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers biologist and manager of the study.

The Susquehanna begins in Cooperstown, New York, flows through central Pennsylvania and into Maryland where it winds its way down to the Chesapeake Bay.

Along the way, the river collects runoff—sediment and nutrients—from farms, cites, yards, and anywhere in between.

Sediment essentially means dirt—clay, silt and sand—but it has the potential to carry nutrients, pesticides, oil residue, manure and other toxic particles.

Dams are designed to hold back water, but they also collect and hold back this sediment—millions of tons of it.

Some of that sediment gets through the dam, and for dams in the greater Chesapeake Bay watershed, this means sediment will continue on to the bay, where it has the potential to harm the aquatic ecosystem.

Before the new assessment was completed, researchers thought that this sediment was causing major harm to the bay because an abundance of particles floating in the water could block out light or bury bottom-dwelling aquatic species.

The study concludes that this is not the case.

“When we ran the model simulations looking at removing a really large amount of sediment, we fully expected to see water quality improvements in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Compton.

“We were surprised. We simply didn’t see it.”

The reason for this is that sediment quickly settles and dissipates without burying bottom dwelling species.

The Spy Interview with Assessment team leader Colonel Richard Jordan of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers from August 2014

The assessment found that even in a major weather event, like Tropical Storm Lee in 2011, large sediment plumes in the Susquehanna and the Chesapeake dissipate quickly without affecting water clarity for long.

“(The satellite imagery) looks very catastrophic. You think ‘Oh my goodness. This has got to be impacting the bay.’ And it does, there are short-term impacts, but the sediment falls out quickly,” said Bruce Michael, the Resource Assessment Service Director for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

The problem with sediment is that it carries nutrients, like nitrogen and phosphorus, along with it.

These nutrients can stimulate the growth of algae, leading to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. This can create dead zones—areas uninhabitable for aquatic species that need oxygen to survive.

Since the sediment itself is not harming the Chesapeake Bay, the study suggests, one way to improve water quality would be to reduce nutrient pollution upstream.

“The nutrients are more the driving factor in this and not the sediment alone. Further reductions in nutrients will have a larger impact on meeting our water quality standards,” Michael said.

This includes better management of storm water, agricultural runoff, and runoff from paved surfaces like roads, or residential areas.

For Marylanders, fees to pay for this kind of management have become known as the “rain tax.”

The bill, more formally known as a “stormwater management fee,” was signed into law by Gov. Martin O’Malley in 2012, and requires nine counties and Baltimore City to implement watershed protection programs.

As part of the program, local governments charge landowners based on the amount of impervious surface on their property.

Despite political controversy about the tax, the new study recommends stormwater management as an important strategy to lower nutrients and protect the water quality of the bay.

The assessment (link:, was released for public comment Thursday morning. The 185-page report was three years in the making and cost $1.4 million to complete. It involved several agencies, including the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Maryland Department of the Environment and The Nature Conservancy.

Another recommendation of the assessment is to continue long-term monitoring of the lower Susquehanna River system.

Exelon Generation Co., which owns and operates the Conowingo Dam, has offered to cover the $3.5 million price tag of this enhanced monitoring over the next few years.

Exelon currently leases the Conowingo Dam and Reservoir. The lease was issued on Aug. 14, 1980, but it expired on Sept. 1.

So now Exelon is in the process of negotiating a new leasing license with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The final decision will be made by FERC in January, and a new lease would be effective for another 46 years.

Of course, what comes of the report could also depend largely on the opinion of governor-elect, Larry J. Hogan Jr. , who has pointed to upstream states as complicit in the pollution of the bay, and responsible for their shares of the cleanup.

“I think we can help clean up the bay by standing up for Maryland and fighting back against some of the upstream polluters,” Hogan said in a YouTube video (link: produced by his campaign on Aug. 19.

“We’ve got to push back against the EPA, the federal government has a role to play … and we’ve got to get the other states to pay their fair share.”

Hogan’s staff confirmed they received a copy of the report on Wednesday, but the governor-elect could not be reached for comment as of Thursday afternoon.

The Big Four—Important Findings from the Lower Susquehanna River Watershed Assessment

1. Before the completion of the assessment, it was thought that the Conowingo Dam would continue to trap sediment for 10 to 20 years. But the report found that the reservoir is essentially at full capacity for sediment.

• The assessment says the dam is in a state of “dynamic equilibrium”—meaning sediment continually accumulates, but every so often a large storm event will push enough sediment from the reservoir through the dam to leave extra room for additional trapping.

• Because of these storms, the reservoir never reaches a “full” capacity of sediment, but it also can’t be expected to trap much more. This means any additional sediment coming into the Conowingo Reservoir from upstream will pass through the dam and continue on to the Chesapeake Bay.

2. The nutrients carried with the additional sediment passing through Conowingo Dam is affecting the health of the Chesapeake Bay.

• Sediment contains nutrients that can stimulate the growth of algae, leading to low levels of dissolved oxygen in the water. Low dissolved oxygen levels can cause dead zones—areas uninhabitable for aquatic species that need oxygen to survive.

• If nothing is done to mitigate the amount of sediment and associated nutrients flowing through the Conowingo Reservoir, water quality standards set for the Chesapeake Bay (intended to be met by 2025) will not be attainable.

3. Upstream sources of sediment and nutrients have more impact on the Chesapeake Bay than the sediment and nutrients collecting at the Conowingo Dam.

• The Susquehanna River watershed upstream of the Conowingo Dam is responsible for the majority of pollutants, which include phosphorous and nitrogen, associated with negative impacts on the Chesapeake Bay.

4. Dredging (removing) sediment from the Conowingo Reservoir would not be an effective method for improving water quality in the Chesapeake Bay.

• Dredging would cost between $48 million and $267 million each year just to keep the sediment at its current levels. It would have to be done annually in order to make even a short-term difference in sediment storage capacity in the Conowingo Reservoir. To dredge enough sediment to return to 1996 levels, the assessment estimates it could cost as much as $2.8 billion.

Read the full report here:

By Dani Shae Thompson

Governor-Elect Names Democrat to Head Transition Team


Governor-elect Larry J. Hogan Jr. named Robert Neall, a Democrat and former state senator, delegate and Anne Arundel County executive, to his transition team Wednesday afternoon.

Neall will head up Hogan’s budget and tax team, making the appointment one of the most important during his transition. The Republican Hogan’s surprise win in a majority-Democrat state was based largely on a campaign message of fiscal restraint.

“He’s the most respected fiscal mind in the state of Maryland,” Hogan said. “There’s nobody in the state that knows tax and fiscal budget issues better than Bobby Neall.”

Screen Shot 2014-11-12 at 6.10.39 PMNeall said that the transition team will look at the remaining seven months of fiscal 2015 to “see if there are any mid-course corrections that the governor-elect could do if he chose to in landing that budget in a different place than where the trajectory is.”

Hogan won’t have an opportunity to present a budget entirely of his own making until fiscal 2017, as most state budgets, which run based on a July-June fiscal year, are prepared by the previous Christmas time.

“There will be precious few opportunities for the new governor to tweak a budget that was really put together by his predecessor’s staff,” said Neall.

Hogan, who ran on a policy of cutting spending and taxes, has crossed the aisle by selecting Neall, a Democrat who switched parties during his state senate tenure in 1999 due to feeling increasingly “uncomfortable and unwelcome” within the Republican party, according to Capital News Service reports from the time.

Neall served in the state House of Delegates from 1975 to 1987, was Anne Arundel County executive from 1990 to 1994, and then a senator from late 1997 until early 2003.

Hogan also named Carville Collins, a Baltimore lawyer with DLA Piper, as general counsel to his transition team. Collins has represented clients in the energy, water, telecommunications and transportation sectors, according to a profile on the DLA Piper website.

Matthew Crenson, professor emeritus with the Department of Political Science at Johns Hopkins University, said that Neall’s appointment is a clear signal that Hogan is reaching out to Democrats.

“I would expect that the transition team will include other Democrats as well,” Crenson

By creating a bi-partisan transition team, it becomes harder for Maryland Democrats to take shots at Hogan, Crenson said.

Hogan has reached out to key state Democrats, he said, having scheduled meetings with Comptroller Peter Franchot, and Speaker of the House of Delegates Michael E. Busch (Anne Arundel).

He also had a breakfast meeting with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (Calvert
and Prince George’s), on Wednesday but did not offer up any details of what was discussed.

“We had a frank, open and honest discussion,” Hogan said.

The governor-elect continues to decline to offer up any specific policy platform, saying that it doesn’t make any sense to roll out policy initiatives until he’s assembled a team of advisers to help him make those decisions.

“I think you’re trying to put the cart before the horse,” Hogan said.

By Lejla Sarcevic
Capital News Service

Maryland Election Could Weaken Maryland’s Influence on Capitol Hill


With just days to go before the midterm elections and an increasing likelihood that Republicans will win back control of the Senate, Maryland’s congressional delegation is in danger of losing some of its power to influence national policy on issues such as the environment, health care and the economy.

Both of the state’s Democratic senators, Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin, would be in the minority if Republicans take over.

Seven of Maryland’s eight House members are Democrats in a chamber already controlled by Republicans, meaning that the overwhelmingly Democratic state will have only one member of congress, Rep. Andy Harris, R-Cockeysville, in the majority party.

“Elections are consequential,” Cardin said about the possibility of a Republican-led Senate. “If the Republicans win, they’re likely to roll everything back we’ve been fighting for, like the minimum wage, policies for social equality. They’ll do what they need to do to pass their agenda.”

According to the most recent model by, which combines hundreds of opinion polls with voter demographic information, Republicans have a 64 percent chance of taking back the Senate Tuesday.

Some members of the party have already been vocal about what their goals will be if they win the majority, and many of those goals are anathema to Democrats like Cardin and Mikulski.

In audio from a private meeting in June reported by The Nation, Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the presumed Majority Leader of a Republican-led Senate, said that if victorious, he would use amendments to spending bills to try to pressure the president to agree to dramatic policy changes.

“We will be pushing back against this bureaucracy … We’re going to go after them on healthcare, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board,” McConnell said.

Earlier this month, Sen.Ted Cruz of Texas outlined a 10-point plan in an op-ed for USA Today that called for a repeal of the president’s healthcare plan, passing a balanced budget amendment and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service.

Mikulski currently chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, the committee that controls discretionary spending bills. But she’ll lose her ability to control the spending agenda if she falls into the minority.

The big question for Democrats, said Benton Strong, associate director of communications at the liberal Center for American Progress Action Fund, is how Republicans will handle the budget once they are in the majority. Their recent history has led them them toward shutting down the government and constant budget battles with the president, he said.

“They’ve showed no sign that they’re going to change that,” he said.

Cardin sits on the Committee on the Environment and Public Works, which will likely be chaired by its current ranking member, Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana.

Vitter, in a recent committee report, referred to environmental groups as “an elite group of left wing millionaires and billionaires who directs and controls the far-left environmental movement, which in turn controls major policy decisions and lobbies on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”

In June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a series of new rules that seek to lower carbon emissions nationwide by 30 percent before 2030. Maryland would be required to reduce its carbon emissions by 36.5 percent from its 2012 levels once the rules go into effect.

But Republican opposition toward environmental regulations leaves the possibility of a confrontation with the president that could see the new rules either weakened or eliminated.

Other items, such as the state’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which is projected to cost Maryland $1.02 billion by 2018, with the majority paid by federal funding, could be at risk. With repeal unlikely, Republicans who have been eager to see the law weakened could use their newfound control over the budget to cut part of its funding.

“It would leave this gaping hole to fill,” said Vincent DeMarco, president of the Maryland Citizens Health Initiative, of possible cuts to the program’s federal funding.

“It would say you either get rid of the whole thing or you pay for it all yourself,” DeMarco said.

But it’s not likely that Republicans will be able to check off many of the items on their wishlist, said Thomas F. Schaller, professor of American politics at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Obstacles, such as the the 60-vote limit to pass Senate legislation, which Republicans will fall well short of, will prevent their most ambitious attempts to roll back legislation from passing through the chamber, he said. The rule may also be the only real way Cardin and Mikulski have left to affect policy, he said.

A more likely scenario is a Congress and president that spend the next two years at odds, with only minor concessions on issues that have some degree of bipartisan support, such as trade and tax reform, he said.

“I think you’re likely to see a lot more vetoes if the Republicans get ambitious,” he said. “It would take some incredible skill for them to accomplish what they’d like to accomplish. It’s more likely that they’ll (Congress and the president) just halt each other at every moment.

By Mike Persley

Gears of Change Begin Turning as Maryland Prepares for New Governor


A new Maryland governor is on his way into office and the signs they are a-changing.

Well, not quite yet.

From highway signs to website photos and even artworks, administration change affects more than just policy.

Transitioning from one governor to the next involves nearly every state agency and department. They plan, coordinate and take care of the multitude of small details that can often go unnoticed.

Between Election Day on Nov. 4, and the gubernatorial inauguration scheduled for Jan. 21, state employees have 79 days to get everything in place.

Former Gov. Parris Glendening recalled his transition into office in late 1994 and early 1995.

“It’s a fascinating process,” Glendening said. “As best I can tell, it was almost on autopilot and the reason being is we have very good professional staff all over the departments [in the state].”


How about those welcome signs on the highway?

“Maryland welcomes you, enjoy your visit,” they read, on various roads that enter the state.

Underneath the Free State’s message is a placard with the governor’s name on it. Someone needs to change that sign – just one example of the superficial aspects of the transition.

Those highway signs are created and placed by the State Highway Administration ( ), which has its own sign shop near Baltimore Washington International-Thurgood Marshall Airport.

The state has about 21 welcome signs featuring the governor’s name said State Highway Administration Assistant Chief of Traffic Operations Paul Stout.

“To my knowledge we’ve never had a set date [for the signs to go up],” Stout said.

Stout said the State Highway Administration has never been late with installing all of the signs.

“It takes us very little time,” Stout said of fabricating and installing the signs. “With two guys working, we could [fabricate all of them] in one day.”

The shop makes signs two ways: a silkscreen process similar to printing T-shirts, and a hand-fabrication method for “one-off” signs, according to Stout.

For the governor’s name, “we use the hand-fabrication method due to the different sizes of the signs,” Stout said.

Some signs with the governor’s name are roadside while others are overhead and hang over highways. These are larger, yet simpler to install, because they are comprised of two panels, each smaller than an entire roadside sign.

“It could take longer [to install overhead signs], but we make each panel so one person can handle it,” said Stout.

Due to the small size and light weight of the signs, Stout said, installing each one takes about 30 minutes or less.

Sign shop Operations Manager Eugene “Sonny” Bailey said sign sizes can be anywhere from 12 feet by 15 feet to 8 feet by 8 feet.

Stout said it costs about $2,500 to fabricate all the governor’s name signs, and the installation cost is about $200 apiece. Based on those figures, each sign costs roughly $320 to fabricate and install. In total, replacing all the signs costs about $6,700.

The old signs are recycled by a scrap metal dealer who picks up the aluminum panels and writes a check to the state based on the weight of the load.


Transitions include more than just hardware and manufacturers — it’s decoration and art curators, as well.

“In very practical terms: There’s a family moving out and a family moving in over a very short period of time,” Maryland State Archives Director of Artistic Property, Exhibits and Outreach Elaine Rice Bachmann said.

Bachmann, who has worked for every governor since Gov. William Donald Schaefer on the décor of Government House, said they have to balance the fact that Government House is a historical building with its role as a family home.

For example, Bachmann said, when Gov. Bob Ehrlich came into office it was the first time since the 1940s that a young child was living in Government House.

“There were some handrails that needed to be raised so that they were safe for children and up to code because they’d never been that way.”

Property in the Government House is state owned, she said, and has to be accounted for.

Bachmann said a three-person staff goes to the Government House to take inventory of art in the house before a family leaves. Then, right after the family moves out, the team takes another inventory to ensure all the art is still there.

“You wait for the next family to move in and see what they want to keep and what they don’t want to keep,” she said. “There’s always a level of service that you’re providing to meet the needs of that family. Each particular governor has particular interests so we try to accommodate those with things from the state-owned art collection or borrowing from different collections.”

She said Ehrlich “covered the walls” with the Maryland state art collection ( ) because he was very proud of all the pieces.

Gov. Martin O’Malley is deeply interested in the War of 1812, so much of the art now on the walls focuses on that period of Maryland history, she said.

“You sort of wait and see what the interests are going to be and how can you meet them,” she said.

Bachmann said the state art collection features 300 years of commissions and gifts, from portraits of governors to portraits of historical figures and “everybody in between.”

O’Malley recently requested a portrait of Maryland native and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, unveiled Sept. 15 and featured in Government House’s Entrance Hall.

Bachmann said the new portrait is a great example of how each governor has different interests and desires for decoration in Government House.

As for who decides on the decoration, Bachmann said, the first ladies generally take the most interest in ideas for changing room colors, likely due to the busy schedule of new governors.

Glendening said most of the time the new governor and lieutenant governor is spent on key policy issues.

“That’s where 95 percent of my time was directed,” he said. “My guess is the last 10 governors didn’t put five minutes time into thinking about that.”

Secretary of the Maryland State Archives ( ) Tim Baker said transitioning after elections is more difficult than transitioning after an expired term limit and that it’s easier to plan a transition when everyone knows a new administration is on its way in.

“It’s a slightly different scenario than when a governor gets turned out because they didn’t win reelection,” said Tim Baker. “That’s sort of a more tumultuous event.”

Before the inauguration of a new governor, official photos are taken for all of the websites and state buildings.

Chief photographer for O’Malley, Jay Baker — no relation to Tim Baker — said once photos are taken, a large number of photos are printed and framed.

After the photos are printed, Jay Baker said, he defers to Director of Executive Services Jeremy Rosendale.

Rosendale said after photos are obtained, he works with Department of General Services Director Sam Cook to frame them.

The Department of General Services ( ) handles replacing the new administration’s photos in government buildings and moves swiftly to display the photos.

Tim Baker said the Department of General Services is pivotal in the transition process.

“When Gov. Ehrlich came in, one of the first calls we got was to dispatch [staff photographer] Rick Lippenholz to take the official photo,” said Tim Baker. “We ran off, I want to say, 150 copies and sent them to be put up in all the government buildings.”

“It’s usually less than a week after we get the photos they go up,” said Cook.

Cook said the Department of General Services tells the governor-elect’s own photographer how many buildings need photos as well as the sizes needed.

The Department of General Services also handles switching names in state buildings, as changing the photos and name plates is “all part of the same process,” Cook said.

“Typically, if there’s lettering inside the building with the governor’s name, we change that at the same time as the photos,” said Cook.

Cook said the transition team’s purpose is to make the process more transparent and less disruptive to the government.

“We like transparency,” said Cook. “If it’s transparent, then I’m doing my job.”


Tim Baker also said the archives migrate digital photos to an online database.

Glendening said an increasingly important aspect of the transitions is website upkeep.

“When I came in [websites] were just starting to be widely used,” he said.

But transitions for state websites require much less manpower, and hard copies of photos are useless on the Internet.

Teri Greene, who serves as assistant director of web systems with the state’s Department of Information Technology, said online standards dictate what state sites must feature – such as links, photos and language.

Greene said Creative Director Frank Perrelli formats the photos to the proper resolution for the sites and adds the proper language.

“We have a central web server where the photos are stored,” Greene said.

The new portraits, provided by the governor’s office, will be added to the web server from which the websites pull content, seamlessly replacing the old images.

Some websites have a larger version of the governor and lieutenant governor photo and others have a smaller version, though both link to the governor’s webpage. Greene said this is due to pages needing to be responsive: a feature that allows websites to fit any size screen whether a desktop or a smartphone.

The Archives maintain a digital collection of governor photos as well.

“Right around inauguration day, we will take all the photographs from the O’Malley administration, and we will keep them in the same basic structure, but we’ll move them into a different collection of historic governor photographs,” Tim Baker said about handling an outgoing administration’s digital photos.

They then add the new governor’s pictures to the online collection of current administration photos.

The governor’s webpage needs to be updated, too.

Greene said the state’s IT department works with the governor’s office to provide support when updating the governor’s webpage.

“We work with (the new administration’s transition team) to coordinate for the governor’s website,” Greene said. The new governor’s staff creates that content.


When a new administration comes into office, the staff needs new letterhead and stationery. So they go to prison.

New paper materials are produced through Maryland Correctional Enterprises ( ), which is a part of the Department of Corrections and offers various services provided by inmates in the state.

Rosendale said using Maryland Correctional Enterprises’ printing services, rather than a private printing business, saves the state money.

“Once we know the outcome of the election, we let them know to have enough (stationery) to at least get started,” Rosendale said.

Rosendale said administration staffers work with MCE to have all the necessary paper products ready for the first day in office.

“Ideally the goal is to have everything done on day one,” said O’Malley Press Secretary Nina Smith.

As for old paper products with outgoing administration information, most of it gets recycled but, Rosendale said, sometimes the staffers will put the paper to use as scrap and note paper.


Other changes, however, aren’t necessary.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation ( ), for example, issues certificates of inspection for machinery such as elevators, amusement park rides, boilers and pressure valves.

Each certificate of inspection features the names of the governor, lieutenant governor and department secretary.

When administrations change, the state doesn’t need to change its certificates.

“Certificates that we issue will be changed when they expire,” department communications director Maureen O’Connor wrote in an email.

By Max Bennett

Maryland Officials Say They’re Learning from Ebola Mistakes in Texas


Maryland state health officials are learning from the mistakes made at a Texas hospital that have left two nurses who cared for an Ebola patient infected with the disease themselves, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Secretary Dr. Joshua Sharfstein said during a press conference Friday in Baltimore.

“I think that any potentially lethal infectious disease, it’s important to approach it with a certain degree of humility and learn from all the experiences that can happen,” Sharfstein said.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein

Nurses Nina Pham and Amber Vinson were both confirmed to have Ebola after treating patient Thomas Eric Duncan at a Dallas-area hospital. Duncan has since died.

Vinson has been moved to Emory University in Atlanta for treatment, while Pham has been been transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda for care.

O’Malley said he got the call from Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell about Pham being moved to NIH on Thursday.

“We have the best public health institutions in the world located in our state,” O’Malley said. “So I wasn’t terribly surprised at that movement, and there may well be others as we isolate and contain Ebola here.”

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has never specifically said how Ebola was transmitted from Duncan to the nurses, Director Tom Frieden said “a variety of forms of protective personal equipment were used.”

Because it’s possible the nurses could have been exposed to Ebola by not adorning or taking off the equipment correctly, or even wearing the appropriate amount of protection, Sharfstein said the events “really have enforced the need to get personal protective equipment right every time.”

Officials from Johns Hopkins Hospital and the University of Maryland Medical Center said they are working very hard to ensure their providers know exactly how to use the equipment.

“To ensure that they know how to put it on properly, every piece of it so that they achieve that full-body coverage and protection that is needed,” said Dr. Lisa Maragakis, director of the Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control at Johns Hopkins. “And that they are, in particular, practicing how to remove the equipment without contaminating themselves.”

She said they’ve also implemented the “buddy system,” which means a health care provider no longer gets in and out of the protective equipment themselves. Now it’s a three-person job, Maragakis said.

All emergency medical service providers in the state, as well as law enforcement at all levels also have the equipment — or at least the ability to request it — to protect themselves effectively from an Ebola patient, said Dr. Richard Alcorta, acting co-executive director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Service Systems.

He also said all public safety, commercial ambulance services, 911 dispatchers and their medical directors are now screening all 911 calls to identify patients at risk for Ebola so that those callers can be transported to a hospital and treated with the appropriate protective protocols.

“We look at this as part of our system’s responsibility to you, the public, and to the health care professionals to make sure they can take care of all patients and maintain our infrastructure in a robust fashion,” Alcorta said.

Health officials said they continue to meet with leaders across their agencies and push out information to the public.

Dr. Anthony Harris of the University of Maryland Medical Center said he has had “numerous multi-disciplinary meetings and committees” to review hospital protocols and keep everyone abreast on the latest Ebola information. Health Secretary Sharfstein also said a memo went out Friday to all state employees with facts about Ebola.

Additional cautions are also being put into place. Johns Hopkins Hospital has started initial Ebola screenings at all emergency departments and outpatient locations, said Maragakis.

And the state’s biosurveillance system, Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics, has teamed up with the District of Columbia and Virginia health officials and hospitals to aggregate data about people reporting Ebola virus symptoms, said Dr. Laura Herrera, the deputy secretary for Public Health Services for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

While there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola in Maryland, health officials say the chance is still likely.

But O’Malley said we can’t live our lives in fear and that “citizens should go about their normal lives.”

“And they should be aware that their public health networks and public health institutions are very focused on this,” O’Malley said.

By Ashley S. Westerman

Nada: Brown Declines Offering Support for O’Malley Presidential Run


Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown Friday declined to say whether he would endorse a presidential run by Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“I’m not trying to be evasive, let me tell you this, there’s one election right now, for obvious reasons, that I am focused on almost 99.99 percent of my waking hours and that’s the general election Nov. 4, 2014, and I think the people of Maryland deserve that,” Brown said in a phone interview on Friday.

Brown is facing O’Malley-weary voters in an attempt to become the first lieutenant governor in Maryland’s history to gain a promotion to Government House via the ballot box.

His Republican opponent, Larry Hogan, has continued to press Brown on taxes and economic issues, saying that a Brown administration would simply be a continuation of O’Malley’s economic policies.

“I’m sure that he would be the first person to support an O’Malley presidential run, if he would come out and say he is running,” Hannah Marr, Larry Hogan’s spokeswoman, said. “I think he might be the only person in Maryland that would actually support the governor’s run for president.”

O’Malley is weighing a presidential run where he could face former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton who in recent weeks has signaled she is considering running again.

This may put Brown in a tight spot.

Brown enjoyed an early endorsement from O’Malley in May during the gubernatorial primary.

Hillary Clinton was scheduled to attend a Brown fundraiser at the end of last month but sent former President Bill Clinton in her place. Chelsea Clinton had days before given birth to her first child.

“Given the high stakes of November’s election, everyone’s focus should be on 2014. That’s certainly where Governor O’Malley’s focus is,” said Lis Smith, spokeswoman for O’Malley’s O’Say Can You See PAC.

Since the beginning of August, O’Malley has traveled across the country helping fundraise for Democratic candidates in Florida, California, Nevada, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and in key early primary states Iowa and New Hampshire – trips that also help raise his national profile.

A recent Baltimore Sun poll conducted by OpinionWorks in Annapolis showed that almost 60 percent of Maryland voters would not support an O’Malley presidential run.

By Lejla Sarcevic

Supreme Court to Hear Case on Right of States to Tax Out-of-State Income


The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case involving a Maryland couple who believe their out-of-state income should not be taxed by their state of residence.

Brian and Karen Wynne of Howard County argue the income they earn in several other states through Maxim Healthcare Services Inc., a company Mr. Wynne partially owns, should not be taxed by Maryland if they pay the income taxes in those other states.

Maryland has an out-of-state income tax credit that can be used to offset state income taxes. But there is no equivalent credit that can be used to offset county income taxes, so counties can tax the out-of-state income.

According to court documents, Comptroller of the Treasury of Maryland v. Wynne (No. 13-485) asks the question: “Does the United States Constitution prohibit a state from taxing all income of its residents — wherever earned — by mandating a credit for taxes paid on income in other states?”

The Wynnes argued in Maryland Tax Court that the partial credit violates the dormant Commerce Clause.

University of Maryland Carey School of Law Professor Mark Graber said the dormant Commerce Clause says “there are some state regulations of interstate commerce that are unconstitutional even when Congress does not act.”

“So there is no federal law that prohibits or requires states to give tax credits for taxes paid in other states,” Graber said. “But the claim the Wynnes are making is that, in fact, Maryland’s failure to do so sufficiently burdens interstate commerce.”

When the Maryland Tax Court sided with the comptroller, the Wynnes appealed to the Maryland Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, which sided with them.

Dominic Perella, the Wynne’s counsel, said his client believes he “shouldn’t have to pay double taxes” and that the way Maryland structures its taxes punishes him for growing a successful business.

But Maryland has argued in court documents that, among other points, it has the right as a sovereign state to tax the entirety of its residents’ income, regardless of where the income was generated or if taxes on that income were paid in other states. The Maryland Attorney General’s office said it does not comment on pending litigation.

A brief filed by organizations representing local governments also contends that counties would suffer if they offered credits against county income tax for income earned out-of-state.

“There would be significant financial implications for counties,” said Andrea Mansfield, legislative director of the Maryland Association of Counties.

According to the brief, if the Supreme Court sides with the Wynnes, estimates from the comptroller’s office are that it could cost local governments $120 million in retroactive refunds, and could reduce local income tax revenues by about $50 million annually going forward.

The Bureau of Revenue Estimates says the initial cost to local governments could actually be higher – $190 million plus interest in protected claims and retroactive refunds.

Graber said if that happens, the Maryland tax bill for all residents who earn out-of-state income will go down.

“Conversely, the revenue obtained by Maryland will also go down,” Graber said.

He said if the high court sides with Maryland, life will probably go on as usual as the Supreme Court has in the past left states alone to tax the income of their residents as they see fit.

The Supreme Court begins its next session Monday. This case is set to be argued Nov. 12.

By Ashley S. Westerman
Capital News Service

Stranded Boaters Avoid High Costs with Tow Insurance

Sea Tow Annapolis’s 29-foot long Sea-Cure boasts 900 feet of rope, two water pumps, fuel cans, buoys and life preserves to assist in whatever situation arises on September 24 at the Watergate Village docks in Annapolis, Maryland. Capital News Service photo by Dylan Moroses

Sea Tow Annapolis’s 29-foot long Sea-Cure boasts 900 feet of rope, two water pumps, fuel cans, buoys and life preserves to assist in whatever situation arises on September 24 at the Watergate Village docks in Annapolis, Maryland. Capital News Service photo by Dylan Moroses

Boats will always break down for one reason or another, but finding a friendly tow to shore is not a certainty.

Maryland autumn weather harbors spells of unpredictable storms and winds that cause people on the water worry at the end of boating season, more so than in the summer months when the conditions are more consistent, said BoatUS Annapolis Capt. Ham Gale.

“With the weather picking up now, there’s increased apprehension when boaters are left out on the water; people want service faster,” Gale said. “People who would wait four hours for their friend to tow them back to shore in the summer now start to worry if they are waiting for two hours.”

Some emergencies – like a sinking ship – require the U.S. Coast Guard or local maritime authorities, but other incidents where the boat and passengers are safe are often taken care of by the two biggest names in boat towing, Sea Tow and BoatUS.

Boaters could be looking at monstrous costs if they are stranded safely on their boat without a tow service membership, said Adam Wheeler, vice president and director of towing for BoatUS, a corporation headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, that provides boat safety services, including boat insurance and tow service.

“The average tow length is about three to four hours,” Wheeler said. “If you’re not a member of a service like ours, then you would get charged at what is called the ‘public rate,’ which ranges from anywhere between $200 to $300 per hour.”

The most popular tow service memberships are available for less than $200 annually from BoatUS or Sea Tow, and cover any incidents for the year, similar to AAA’s Roadside Assistance service.

Capt. Dave DuVall owns Sea Tow’s Central Chesapeake Maryland franchise in Annapolis, the longest-running location nationally for that boat service corporation, which is based in Southold, New York.

“Instantaneously, yes, it’s more financially rewarding to tow a non-member,” DuVall said. “In the long run, I get paid to provide a service to my members in advance. So if I don’t provide that service to members, suddenly the word gets out and all of a sudden the membership falls. If the membership falls, I lose money that way.”

Capt. Dave Duvall checks his GPS systems and listens in on a potential call for service in the pilothouse of the Sea-Cure at the Watergate Village docks in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 24. Capital News Service photo by Dylan Moroses

Capt. Dave Duvall checks his GPS systems and listens in on a potential call for service in the pilothouse of the Sea-Cure at the Watergate Village docks in Annapolis, Maryland, on September 24. Capital News Service photo by Dylan Moroses

Unfortunately for non-members, tow services like Sea Tow and their rival company, BoatUS, are required to give preference to their paying customers, which means they can divert from assisting a non-member in the middle of travel to help someone who subscribes to their service, leaving them stranded at sea for longer, DuVall said.

These corporations developed a network for the near coastal waters, providing tow service to boaters in distress and helping the U.S. Coast Guard, state and local maritime authorities in certain emergency situations.

DuVall equipped his fleet to respond to most emergencies and will assist the Coast Guard in certain situations, but describes it as a non-emergency tow service that responds to calls commonly dealing with some type of engine failure on recreational vessels.

“It truly is an on-call business,” DuVall said. “You seldom know until you answer the phone what you got, and even then, you may not know until you actually see it.”

Most of Sea Tow’s six Annapolis boat captains live within a mile of their dock behind the Watergate Village, and someone is always at the boats, ready to respond.

Duvall and Gale, along with other boat service operators in the Bay area, took a course to become certified in proper search and rescue procedures, so that “the Coast Guard can actually believe what we’re telling them,” DuVall said.

Sea Tow assisted the Coast Guard getting their fleet into shallow waters until about three years ago, when they received their new 45-foot utility boats, which draw less water than the old 41-foot vessels, DuVall said.

Gale helped the Coast Guard in September 2013 when a vessel carrying about a dozen people hit a rock pile by the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and began to sink. The Coast Guard rescued the people, but could not get a pump on the sinking boat and resorted to Gale’s resources to save the vessel. BoatUS Annapolis was able to salvage the boat and is still waiting on payment from the government for the job, Gale said.

The U.S. Coast Guard used to direct boaters without rescue memberships to tow companies on a rotating basis, but the policy changed in 1983.

They now send out a broadcast specifying the incident, providing tow companies a first-come, first-serve call for service – an unbiased, but inefficient system. Tow captains in the Chesapeake Bay area decided to develop their own system, said DuVall.

“In this area, tow captains got together years ago and formed The Maritime Towing and Assistance Association to figure out a way to handle the new Coast Guard policy, which we didn’t like,” DuVall said. “We came up with a way to work within the guidelines of the policy, but instead of everyone running on one job, we’d figure out who would provide the closest and best response, and probably the cheapest, depending on the situation.”

Sea Tow does not have as many members in the Chesapeake Bay area as BoatUS, therefore making it easier and faster for Sea Tow to respond to subscribers and non-members, DuVall said. BoatUS has about 500,000 members nationally, and Sea Tow did not provide membership numbers.

Sea Tow and BoatUS have dispatchers all over the country that utilize every means of communication possible, from VHF radio to cell phone, to ensure immediate response at any time, said Scott Croft, BoatUS Director of Public Relations.

DuVall once rescued a non-member in a vessel who was grounded in soft mud, requiring 2,500 feet of rope from a second boat and a kayak for the last 150 feet to save the person in distress. “I told him, ‘Don’t even think about getting out of that kayak, because you’ll be up to your waist in there and we’ll be pulling you out,’” DuVall said.

Boaters that believe they have coverage for towing through their boat insurance company could be misinformed when they return to the dock. “I’ve seen instances where a guy thinks he has all this coverage, and then he’s only got about $150,” DuVall said. “That doesn’t even pay for us to get out of the slip.”

While BoatUS and Sea Tow are corporate competitors, the local towboat captains from each service are aware of wasting resources and coordinate to avoid doing so, even at the expense of a potential customer.

“One of the worst things you can do is call both companies at the same time if you’re not a member and need service,” DuVall said. “We listen to each other, so if I hear them dispatching on the same call I’m dispatching my guys on, I call the other company and we both stand down. We can’t afford to send out two boats to one guy, especially if we’re busy on a weekend.”

By Dylan Moroses
Capital News Service

O’Malley Hits the Trail in Iowa


In late July, Kevin Kinney, the Democratic candidate for the open state Senate seat in Iowa’s 39th District, got a phone call from a colleague.

Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley, his colleague told him, wanted to help his campaign raise money.

O’Malley, who has said he’s seriously considering a run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016, has been traversing Iowa and other key states in recent months, shaking hands with local Democrats who can help raise his profile. His political action committee has contributed close to $108,000 to Democratic candidates around the country and paid for more than two-dozen staffers to work in Iowa, New Hampshire and several other states ahead of the midterm elections this fall.

“I’d heard of him,” said Kinney. “But I certainly didn’t know him. I’d never spoke with him. But I’ll take anyone’s help if they’re offering it.”

Less than a week later, O’Malley gave the keynote address in front of a crowd of 30 people at Rocky O’Brien’s, a sports bar in Kinney’s hometown of North Liberty. North Liberty is located in Johnson County, also home to the University of Iowa, and one of the more liberal areas in the state.

In his speech, O’Malley vouched for Kinney as a candidate and talked about the need to elect Democrats statewide in Iowa, the state whose caucuses will kick off the nation’s voting for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees.

In August O’Malley, through his political action committee O’Say Can You See, began paying eleven staffers to work campaigns through the Iowa state Democratic Party, said O’Malley spokesman Lis Smith, who declined to say what candidates they’re working for.

“It’s a common thing to lend your support in various ways, to build bridges, shared goals and interests,” said Cary Covington, associate professor of American politics at the University of Iowa. “You have to get out there and shake hands and let people get comfortable with you.”

Sue Dvorsky, former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, said that whether O’Malley is simply laying out his larger plans or has a sincere desire to help the state’s Democrats, his help has been well received.

“Right now he’s here to say ‘How can I help?’. That’s what he’s about,” said Dvorsky. “Right now we’re only thinking about what’s in front of us, which is a dead-heat senate race. If he’s got some bigger motive, well, for now, our interests are complementary.”

In New Hampshire, O’Malley is providing staff for U.S. Senate candidate Jeanne Shaheen and other local candidates, and is scheduled to make his fourth appearance in the state on Friday, when he’ll speak at the annual Portsmouth Democratic banquet.

In his previous visits to the state, which holds the first primary for the nation’s presidential nominating process, he’s made a positive impression, and earned quite a reputation as an orator, said Larry Drake, chair of the Portsmouth City Democratic Committee.

Drake, who saw O’Malley speak in November at the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner, said he remembers the governor’s impassioned recital of the Star-Spangled Banner, and the bravado with which he bragged on Baltimore’s role in creating the song.

“I can tell you people really remember those things,” he said. “Because we’re New Hampshire, the people who are scheduling these events generally consider who is running for president. But people seem to genuinely like O’Malley.”

Whether that translates into support is too early to say, Drake said.

O’Malley spent Saturday in South Carolina campaigning with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Shaheen.

Over the next month, he is scheduled to hold a high-profile fundraiser in Los Angeles, speak to the Minneapolis Democratic Party at its annual Founders Day Dinner, and give the keynote address at the Western Gala for the North Carolina Democratic Party.

If he plans to face up against Hillary Clinton, who most expect will run in 2016, he has a lot more handshaking to do. According to the latest RealClearPolitics average of polls taken of Democratic voters in Iowa, Clinton holds a commanding lead with 59 percent of the vote. O’Malley barely registers, claiming 1.7 percent.

But Tim Hagle, political science professor at the University of Iowa, said Clinton roots, at least in Iowa, are not as deep as people assume, and she may be just as vulnerable to being upset as she was in 2008.

Hagle said that when Bill Clinton was running for president in the early 1990s, he all but conceded Iowa to its native son, Sen. Tom Harkin, who was also running. In 2008, he said, Clinton may have assumed her victory and not bothered to build lasting relationships with the type of party officials that could help her today.

“Clinton’s base here is not what you’d think it is,” he said. “That’s why a young upstart like Barack Obama could come in and surprise her” in 2008.

By Mike Persley