Bay Journal

March 2015 - Volume 25 - Number 1
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Farmer’s plan to create shade for livestock to bear fruit in more ways than one

Treading through ankle-deep snow on a January day to reach a row of saplings near the middle of Buck Holsinger’s pasture, it’s hard to imagine a 100-degree Shenandoah Valley summer day, let alone the need for shade.

But that’s what Holsinger had on his mind. “Come back here in the summer — in 10 years even — and there’ll be plenty of shade,” he said as snow fell and his cattle burrowed beneath it to graze nearby.

Almost a year after they were planted, most of the locust trees stretched just above their plastic sleeves. It will be at least a decade before the chestnuts and poplars provide the shade and windbreaks for which Holsinger planted them, though some fruit — from persimmon or black walnut trees, in particular — might come sooner.

Black communities’ struggle for share of restoration funding

Exclusivity defines the Maryland shoreline: large homes with gazebos and private beaches, quaint towns chockablock with designer handbags and chic dresses, restaurants serving $25 crab cake dinners.

Less likely to be seen are the tight-knit African-American communities that have endured since slavery. They are off the main roads. They are lower to the ground — often on land they got because few others wanted it. Vulnerable to both rising waters and declining populations, they struggle for resources to fix roads, rebuild homes, repair churches and protect what remains.

Partnership turning McElderry Park into one of city’s garden spots

There is no park in McElderry Park. But the East Baltimore neighborhood will soon be one of the greenest urban communities in the region.

Over the next year, the National Wildlife Federation will spend $200,000 to turn McElderry Park into a “deep green community,” complete with pollinator gardens, hundreds of trees, pervious pavement, rain gardens, murals, cisterns and alleys that are filled with green space instead of cracked asphalt.

First oyster farm in Kent County encounters choppy waters

When Maryland changed its law in 2009 to allow widespread aquaculture for the first time, those who pushed for the change had hoped that traditional watermen would get into the oyster cultivation business.

They also hoped to attract college-educated, business-savvy, conservation-minded entrepreneurs who were excited about the chance to revive the Chesapeake Bay’s signature shellfish. They were hoping to foster the idea — now dominant in nearly every shellfish-producing sector in the country — that growing oysters and clams delivers ecological benefits while preserving the native populations.

World experts discuss phosphorus’ harmful impacts

The first rule of the Phosphorus Symposium: There will be no discussion of the PMT.

The PMT. That stands for phosphorus management tool, the science-based calculation and proposed regulation that was developed to guide the application of phosphorus on farm fields. The tool would have banned the application of phosphorus to soils already saturated with the nutrient. It would be a major departure from the current tool, the phosphorus index, which recommends no application of phosphorus in certain situations, but doesn’t forbid it.

Advocate refuses to give up on park project for urban stream

Don Pless is a self-proclaimed documents guy. A retired auditor from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Pless, 65, has redirected his verve and passion for accountability to improving an urban stream in his backyard.

“Transparency, accountability, accuracy, integrity — as long as you guys like those goals, then we should get along fine,” Pless said to a half-dozen public officials who joined him for a walking tour of Flag Run in mid-December.

After deluging them for weeks with e-mails and regulatory questions about the stream, Pless invited them outside to see firsthand the waterway he walks with his German shepherd, Volt, almost everyday. He wanted them to see the ponds where he’s seen tadpoles in the spring and the stream where an occasional perch swims and then “decide whether it’s worth saving or not.”

Initiative seeks to certify qualified conservation landscape designers

Tom and Judy Boyd knew they had landscaping and drainage problems at their home in Charlottesville, VA. And even though Judy is an avid gardener and knows her fair share about the importance of native plants, they didn’t know as much about how their yard could contribute to capturing and treating rainfall.

That is, until they hooked up with Virginia Rockwell, a horticulturist and landscape designer from Orange, VA, who is one of a growing breed of professionals who marry traditional landscaping with stormwater management techniques.

Irish company wins MD contract to turn chicken litter into energy

Sixteen years ago, Jack O’Connor’s government warned him that new regulations were coming to limit the amount of nitrogen he could spread on his farmland.

O’Connor, who lives in Ireland, didn’t fight the regulations. Instead, he used them as the basis for a business plan to turn manure into energy. Today, his company, BHSL, which he founded eight years ago, has built and is operating three manure-to-energy systems in Europe. The company recently won a contract for close to $1 million from the Maryland Department of Agriculture to build a demonstration of their system on a farm on the Eastern Shore. Many more farmers on the Delmarva Peninsula are interested in the technology. Environmental advocates, too, are watching it closely.

Residents can only watch as sea slowly devours their towns

This is the fifth in a series of articles — produced by the Bay Journal and Chesapeake Quarterly, the magazine of Maryland Sea Grant — that explore the impacts of, and policies related to, sea level rise around the Bay.

All over low-lying Dorchester County, MD, residents are living on the edge. One skid off the road puts a car in a marsh. Parking in the wrong place during the wrong arc of a tide cycle can lead to a flooded car. Water that used to just graze residents’ yards now comes up to the porches. It’s just a matter of time, they know, before it comes into the houses.

Here, in the land of narrow marshes and proud, working waterfront towns, the high water isn’t just coming. It’s already here.

Urban tree canopy efforts branching out

In urban settings, trees benefit both water quality and human health. They moderate temperatures and beautify neighborhoods. They provide habitat for birds and shade for park benches.

But, while urban trees might not need a public relations campaign, they could use some organizing.

That’s the goal of the Urban Tree Canopy Strategy, a document that will be released by the Chesapeake Bay Program’s Forestry Workgroup in March for public input. Based on the goals of each state in the watershed, the strategy aims for a net gain of 2,400 acres of tree canopy in urban areas of the Chesapeake Bay by 2025.

Groups threaten suit over coal ash pits contaminating VA waters

The Southern Environmental Law Center said in separate legal notices filed in late 2014 that coal ash pits at two separate Dominion Virginia

Power plants are leaking toxic substances into groundwater and nearby surface waters.

The pits are located at the Possum Point Power Plant, which sits on Quantico Creek, a tributary of the Potomac River 30 miles south of Washington, DC, and at Chesapeake Energy Center alongside the Elizabeth River in Chesapeake.

MD manure-to-energy plant appears to be going nowhere

Maryland was supposed to be deep into the planning stages for a manure-to-energy plant by now, a plant that was a key component in the state’s strategy to reduce pollution from poultry manure.

Its construction would have given poultry growers a safe place to take manure they could not use as fertilizer because of new rules designed to reduce pollution from phosphorus. Many of the Eastern Shore’s fields are saturated with phosphorus, and poultry manure is phosphorus-rich.

Instead, the state’s manure-to-energy plan appears stalled.

New review of menhaden stock reveals population is in good shape

Just two years after fishery managers slashed menhaden harvests to prevent overfishing, a new review of the menhaden stock has concluded that the population of the small, oily fish has actually been in good shape in recent years, and hasn’t been overfished in decades.

This upbeat assessment, which was formally adopted by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission Feb. 3, has commercial fishermen hoping that the commission will grant them higher catch limits at its May meeting.

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