Bay Journal

July-August 2013 - Volume 22 - Number 5
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To be safe, surf the Internet before swimming at the beach

Almost every weekend in the summer, sailboats crowd into the inlets of the Rhode River, just south of Annapolis. Teens cannonball off their bows, while younger children splash close to the beach. The grills come out, and the atmosphere is festive, like an ongoing sailing party.

Chris Trumbauer never wants to break up the mood. But as the Waterkeeper for the West and Rhode rivers, he questions whether these swimmers should be in the water — especially the day after a heavy rain. Have they covered up any cuts and bruises? Do they wash themselves off when they get out of the water? Are they aware that, on the hottest summer days, the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers resemble a simmering soup of bacteria, and contact with the water can lead to all sorts of infections?

Officials hope to sign new Bay agreement in the fall

Three decades after the region's leaders first committed to work together to restore the nation's largest estuary, state and federal officials this fall hope to sign a new Chesapeake Bay agreement to help guide future activity.

The agreement is intended to bring new goals, new state participants and — officials hope — renewed enthusiasm for the Bay restoration effort.

Program seeks to bring more minority students into environmental fields

Jasmine Smalls enrolled in Cheyney University of Pennsylvania hoping to become a nurse.

But a strong mentor in the school’s biology department gave her some exposure to a fish lab. And soon, she became hooked.

So it was that Smalls, 21, was presenting her research on the global characterization of karlodinium veneficum and their RNA sequencing to a distinguished group of scientists in a downtown Baltimore conference room Friday.

Adaptive management aims to take ambiguity out of cleanup goals

Chesapeake Bay Program goals set over the last three decades are often known more for their shortcomings than their successes. Whether it was 40 percent nutrient reduction by 2000, a pledge to stop harmful sprawl, or a toxics-free Bay, many high-minded goals have been missed by wide marks or ultimately, as with harmful sprawl, altogether abandoned.

Now, as officials prepare to draft another goal-filled Bay agreement, they say the result will be different. Their reason: They plan to use "adaptive management," a scientific framework for setting goals, monitoring results and applying lessons learned to improve future outcomes.

Wade-ins clearly show how efforts to clean water are falling behind

If it's June in the Chesapeake Bay, it must be wade-in season.

More than a dozen communities across the watershed host these waterside events, with some turning into unofficial river festivals. The formula is largely the same: A group of people wades in to the river until they can no longer see their feet. It's a test of water clarity, and the higher the water climbs up their legs and torso as they wade deeper, the better.

This unscientific survey complements the vast array of scientific information available on Chesapeake waterways — which includes real-time monitoring data and annual report cards — and focuses elected officials' attention on the importance of clean water, even if just for a day.

EPA, CBF agree to not seek new national CAFO regulations

The EPA will back away from a commitment to write new national regulations that would limit pollution from animal farms in the Bay watershed under an agreement it reached with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Instead, the agency promised to ramp up its oversight of state programs that regulate livestock operations — particularly smaller farms that are a major source of nutrient pollution to the Bay and its rivers.

VA advances ‘safe harbor’ plan to urge farms to use better runoff measures

Virginia will be the first state in the Chesapeake watershed to move forward with a "safe harbor" approach to reducing sources of pollution from agricultural lands, which will be a cornerstone of the commonwealth's overall effort to improve water quality in its portion of the Chesapeake Bay.

The program is designed to encourage and reward farmers for using a high level of best management practices to reduce runoff to the Bay. Participation is voluntary, but farmers who do participate may take advantage of a "safe harbor" clause that exempts them from complying with new water quality requirements that may arise over a nine-year period. By the end of that period, farmers do have to be in compliance with any state or local laws that have passed during the interim.

Omega gets $7.5 million fine, probation for violating Clean Water Act

In one of the largest Clean Water Act settlements in Virginia's Eastern District, Omega Protein, Inc., agreed in June to pay $7.5 million in fines after investigators found a history of pollution among the company's vessels operating out of the Chesapeake Bay.

A $2 million portion of the fine is a donation to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and will be used toward projects benefiting the Bay.

Texas-based Omega operates the largest commercial fishing fleet on the Atlantic Coast out of its Reedville, VA, hub, from which crews harvest the small, oily menhaden for heart-healthy Omega-3 fish oil and fishmeal products. Omega is among the largest producers in the world of both products.

Baltimore Harbor’s water quality improves thanks to weather

School's out, and Baltimore's Inner Harbor just got its first report card. The grade: C minus, and that may have been generous.

The grade, for 2012's calendar year, marks the first time the harbor received a complete report card. With eight inches less rainfall than comes down in the average year, the harbor caught a break. With less rain and snow sending polluted runoff into the harbor, the water clarity and quality improved over 2011's numbers. But luck eventually runs out, and the harbor could fail next year's tests if it doesn't do its homework. Its assignment: Take in less trash and figure out how to fix the ailing infrastructure that surrounds it — leaky sewer pipes and a massive stormwater system.

Fishery council sets bycatch limits for American shad, river herring

For the first time, fishery regulators have established a cap on the amount of American shad and river herring that can be caught as part of the accidental bycatch in an ocean fishery.

The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council in June approved a 236-metric ton limit on the amount of alosine species — American shad, hickory shad, blueback herring and alewife — that can be caught by trawl netters fishing for mackerel.

The council regulates fisheries that operate in federal waters, those more than three miles offshore, from North Carolina to New York.

Ernst Seed: Restoring the Native Balance

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