- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
I read with interest two articles in the Oct. 3 edition of The Calvert Recorder, “Dominion, Sierra Club present arguments in court” and “UniStar files petition for review of decision.” These articles describe the latest in the efforts to bring a third nuclear reactor and a liquefied natural gas terminal to Calvert County. Both projects are touted for their importance in providing energy and generating revenues for local county government, but create only a minor economic boost to local businesses and a relatively small number of jobs locally after the initial construction phase ends. The third nuclear reactor, if ever built, is 10 years or more down the road. The Dominion project is generally described as taking three or four years to complete. Both projects require major construction efforts. Both projects involve serious issues regarding nuclear energy (an active reactor and radioactive waste disposal) and the concentration and exportation of liquefied natural gas for shipment to the world market (concentration at a single terminal, liquidation, ship loading and transportation down the Chesapeake Bay).
While both energy projects are important and should be judged on their respective merits and risks, their direct economic impact on the local Southern Maryland economy pales when measured against the direct economic impact of the proposal to bring the cruise ship industry to the Patuxent River (“Patuxent cruise ships would boost tourism, economy,” Sept. 19, The Calvert Recorder). In terms of the immediate economic stimulus to the private sector economy — the creation of hundreds of new and expanded business opportunities in the private sector and the creation of thousands of new private sector job opportunities — the economic impact is substantial and dramatic. All are achieved at a smaller investment than the aforesaid energy projects.
The economic impact would be dramatic. Operating just two cruise ships on a limited basis out of Baltimore Harbor, a Baltimore Port Authority study estimates the cruise ship industry pumped $90 million dollars into Baltimore’s economy. Operating the same limited schedule out of the Patuxent would likely pump an equal number of dollars into the Calvert County and St. Mary’s County economies. The impact would be almost immediate (within two years) and dramatic, providing our area with new jobs, expanded business opportunities and much-needed additional revenues to lower the dependence on real property taxes. These additional revenues would help relieve budget woes for public safety workers and teachers. In case no one has noticed, the flow of money from Uncle Sam and Ma Maryland to local jurisdictions is almost gone.
The key ingredients are in place for the success of the cruise ship proposal. There is, first of all, a demand. Baltimore Harbor cannot accommodate the cruise ship industry needs in Maryland. The cruise ship travel industry is the fastest growing segment of the tourist industry in the United States and generated more than $22 billion dollars in 2011. Second, the “natural” and “man-made” components are in place to support such a use. Third, implementation is a manageable cost largely financed by private investment through partnerships. That is not to say that there are not issues with the proposal that require an honest discussion, such as management of visitors and location of facilities, but these issues are far easier to manage than the complicated issues associated with the new energy plant facilities. With cruise ships, there is no nuclear radiation, no geological “fracking” and no restless (and explosive) “genies in the bottle.” Besides, if those energy genies should decide to act up, we may well need some big ships to get us out of southern Calvert County. The present plan to mass evacuate all of us via the Thomas Johnson Bridge or heading north up Route 4 is unworkable.
The cruise ship proposal is a unique economic opportunity looking for serious consideration and bold leadership to encourage this largely private economic effort. This proposal is not dependent on a “trickle down government theory” for creating jobs and economic opportunities. All it really requires from government is some bold leadership asking, “How can we help?”
Charlie Donnelly, Solomons