By Kim Coble (Chesapeake Bay Foundation) and John Kortecamp (Home Builders Association of Maryland)

Urgency is the watch word of the day, if not the decade.

Urgency because the Chesapeake Bay remains dangerously out of balance. And while there are modest signs of recovery, dead zones, fish kills, swimming advisories, and the loss of tens of thousands of water-related jobs are affecting the health and prosperity of each of us.

Urgency, too, because we continue to face serious economic uncertainty. It is difficult enough to find the resources needed to clean up the Bay in the best of economic times. It is even more difficult to do so in the current economic climate.

This is the conundrum we face. We need economic growth and we need it urgently. But how can we continue to grow and have a healthy Chesapeake Bay?

Environmentalists and developers have often been at odds over what the solutions should be. But we know we can’t afford protracted debate, stalemates, or modest and inconsequential actions. We must step decisively forward to preserve this region’s environment and economy. The two are inextricably linked to a healthy future for all of us.

That’s why the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the Home Builders Association of Maryland – two of the region’s leading advocacy groups – are hosting a dialogue on the challenges of accommodating growth and restoring the Bay’s health.

The conversation is happening at a conference sponsored jointly by the two groups 8:15 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. November 17 at Martins West in Baltimore (registration details at www.bayfriendlydev.org). While the spirit is one of cooperation, the commitment is to an outcome that makes a difference – no matter how difficult it is to achieve.

In these challenging times, making progress on the environment and the economy requires bold new approaches. The way forward may not be immediately obvious, but we know we must act, and we believe honest, civil discourse is a good place to start.

Kim Coble is the Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. John Kortecamp is the Chief Executive Officer of the Home Builders Association of Maryland.