Shenandoah Valley ad campaign aimed at reducing farmland runoff; Key NY environmental posts filled; and more…
Shenandoah Valley ad campaign aimed at reducing farmland runoff
Virginia officials launched an advertising campaign in the Shenandoah Valley this week as part of their goal to achieve a dramatic increase in pollution-control measures taken on farmland in the Bay watershed.
The six-week campaign to inform farmers of state aid for such things as cover crops and fences to keep livestock out of streams is a pilot program, Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesman Gary Waugh said. Officials will evaluate the results to determine whether or how advertising is used in the future, he said.
“We hope to be able to take it to the rest of the state eventually,” said the department’s director, Joseph Maroon.
As part of its program to restore the Bay, the state has a goal of tripling in the next three years the amount of farmland in the watershed where methods are used to reduce the runoff of sediment and nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into streams.
Currently, farmers have adopted measures to reduce runoff on roughly 30 percent of the 3 million acres in Virginia that are in the Bay watershed. The state wants to increase that figure to 90–92 percent by 2010.
Nearly 60 percent of the state—the northern portion stretching from the western boundary to the coast —is in the watershed.
The newspaper, radio and billboard ads in the 15-county Shenandoah Valley region note that cost-sharing funds are available for state-approved practices. Besides building fences and planting cover crops, Waugh said, the department encourages farmers to develop plans for managing the use of fertilizers or animal waste, stabilizing steep hillsides with contour farming and planting trees and grasses along streams.
There are more state funds this year than ever for the cost-sharing program— $14 million—and Maroon said he hopes farmers will reconsider plans they’ve dropped in the past for lack of funding. Through the soil and water conservation districts, the state pays 75 percent of the cost of most approved methods of pollution control.
The ad campaign is only part of the department’s effort to reduce runoff in streams that feed into the Bay’s tributaries, Maroon said. Consistent funding and enough staff to assist farmers are essential, he added.
While farms are the greatest source of polluted runoff, the department also is working with developers and others to reduce pollution in urban areas.
Key NY environmental posts filled
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer named two top environmental officials for his administration in January, giving a key spot to the woman who helped him shape his environmental policy as attorney general and another to a longtime Democratic assemblyman.
Assemblyman Alexander “Pete” Grannis was nominated by Spitzer to serve as the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation commissioner, but he will report to a deputy secretary for the environment.
That new position is being filled by Judith Enck, an environmental policy adviser to Spitzer who previously worked on environmental issues with the New York Public Interest Research Group.
Enck will be Spitzer’s point person on environmental issues, while Grannis will oversee the day-to-day operations of the DEC. He will also have influence on environmental matters, Spitzer spokesman Marc Violette said.
Enck has long championed environmental causes and been a critic of industries with mixed pollution records.
At NYPIRG, she handled the group’s annual list of worst polluters, including Eastman Kodak Co. and other major employers. She also took on General Electric Co. in the late 1990s, and the company was ultimately ordered to clean up PCBs from the upper Hudson River.
In his State of the State speech, Spitzer said he wanted to increase the fund that pays for environmental programs and to revive the DEC.
Spitzer cited Grannis’ experience and past support of environmental protection laws in nominating the longtime lawmaker. Grannis, a Manhattan Democrat, was a DEC lawyer from 1970 to 1972 and worked as an environmental lawyer in private practice for several years.
Wicomico farmer new MD ag secretary
A Wicomico County grain farmer who serves on a coalition working to maintain the viability of farming, was named Maryland’s next agriculture secretary.
The appointment of Roger L. Richardson, 72, will be announced at the annual Maryland Agriculture Dinner in Glen Burnie, said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for Gov. Martin O’Malley.
Richardson operates a trucking firm in addition to his 3,500-acre farm and serves on the board of directors of the Maryland Center for Agro-Ecology Inc., a coalition of agricultural, environmental, education and government leaders working to preserve the environment and maintain the viability of farming.
He also served on the Agricultural Stewardship Committee, a panel of elected officials, farmers and environmentalists that was convened in April 2005 to research ways to boost farm profitability and reduce pollution running into the Chesapeake Bay.
Judith Johnson, environmentalist, dies
Judith C. Johnson, an environmentalist who fought to preserve Assateague Island, died Feb. 13. She was 91 and had suffered a stroke.
Johnson, who was born in Seattle, moved to Baltimore in 1953. Her love of Assateague began when she camped there during the 1960s with her son.
“We enjoyed the island because there was nothing there. However, there was a master plan that included a highway, developments and hotels,” said her son, Reid Colt Johnson of Los Angeles. “I told her that it would be a shame if that happened and that she should really try and do what she could to stop it. That was the beginning of her work.”
In 1970, Johnson and five others founded the Committee to Preserve Assateague Island Inc., an organization that grew to more than 1,300 members. She was its first chairwoman and later served as its president. Its headquarters was in the basement of her home. Johnson retired from the committee in 1995.
Johnson worked for the Maryland Environmental Trust from 1977 until 1980.
Groups threaten suits over PA farms
Pennsylvania environmental groups in January threatened lawsuits against five large animal feeding operations for failure to comply with state and federal water quality permits.
The action taken by Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, the Lower Susquehanna Riverkeeper, and the Stewards of the Lower Susquehanna gave the Lancaster County farms 60 days to comply before a lawsuit would be filed.
The state Department of Environmental Protection earlier had sent letters to the farms warning that they may not have the proper permits. The environmental groups said the farms did not comply with stated and federal requirements for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations that require them to have either a discharge permit, or prove that they had “no potential to discharge” manure or other wastes into waterways.
“These farms have refused to comply with the laws protecting water from farm pollution, despite the fact that they have known of the laws’ requirements for quite some time,” said Kimberly Snell-Zarcone, staff attorney for Penn Future.
Turtle harvests surge in MD
Harvests of diamondback terrapins in Maryland jumped to more than 10,000 last year after a change in state regulations aimed at protecting the turtle. In 2005, just 447 were harvested.
Out of concern that the turtles were declining, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in 2006 enacted new regulations shortening the harvest season and establishing stricter reporting requirements, but also allowed the catch of smaller turtles. While part of the increase is thought to be the result of new reporting requirements, the jump caused the DNR to set several public meetings to consider new regulations for this year.
Named for the markings on its shell, the diamondback terrapin is the Maryland state reptile, and is the only turtle that specifically thrives in tidal marshes and estuaries, where fresh and salt water mix. As the nation’s largest estuary, the Bay is considered to be the most important habitat for the reptile.
A small but growing commercial harvest in Maryland sells terrapin meat to Asian markets at home and abroad. Terrapin harvesting is illegal in Virginia.
Advocate named assistant in MD Attorney General office
Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler recently announced the appointment of Erin Fitzsimmons as his special assistant for the environment.
Fitzsimmons is widely regarded as a staunch environmental advocate, and has been active in water quality and coastal management issues in both the Chesapeake and coastal bays, most recently serving as the Chespeake Regional director of the Waterkeeper Alliance, where she oversaw the efforts of 15 waterkeepers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.
Gansler said Fitzimmons would help to guide his office’s efforts to clean up the Bay. “Her many years of experience leading efforts to protect the Bay, its tributaries and the habitats that depend on the Bay will be an asset to the office,” he said.
CBF sues over reservoir hearing
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has filed a lawsuit challenging a decision that gave Newport News the go-ahead to continue work on the King William Reservoir.
The CBF’s suit contends that the State Water Control Board did not have the authority last December to “reconsider” an earlier decision to deny a permit for the reservoir work.
The lawsuit asks to remand the reconsideration and the permit. It also asks the water board to hold a formal hearing on the permit — the typical avenue for an appeal — and to cover the foundation’s court costs incurred in fighting the decision.
Newport News Waterworks has worked for more than a decade to plan the King William Reservoir, which would hold 12.2 billion gallons and address long-range water needs for the peninsula, city officials argue.
Environmental organizations have long countered that the project is oversized and would cause significant environmental damage to wetlands and the Mattaponi River, where water would be drawn.
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