Bay Journal

July-August 2015 - Volume 25 - Number 5
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Poultry mega-houses forcing Somerset County residents to flee

When Thomas Kerchner married his wife, Sherri, he promised to build her dream home for their retirement years. She had always wanted a log home, so they purchased a lot on a back-country road in Princess Anne, MD, and he designed a home perfect for hosting grandchildren and enjoying country breezes.

Now, the Kerchners are selling that home. Poultry mega-houses have sprouted in their area where trees used to sway, bringing with them tons of manure, industrial-level traffic and the stench of ammonia. Neighbors point to more than 50 chicken houses within a 3-mile radius of the Backbone Road corridor, off Peggy Neck Road and close to the Manokin River, one of the state’s most polluted. At least 67 more chicken houses are permitted and in various stages of construction in Somerset County.

With each superstorm, new clues to predicting surges surface

Every September, John Barnette starts lifting all of his crab traps out of the wide lower reaches of the Wicomico River.

He motors up to a series of wire cages designed to catch summertime peeler crabs. Each cage is tall enough to stick up out of the water, and raising them out of the river, an annual autumn ritual, is hard work, best done when the temperatures are cooling and the Chesapeake Bay is beginning to turn clear and the blue crabs are heading south.

MD hires 4 private oyster growers to plant oyster seed in Bay

For the first time in its 55-year history of planting oysters to help watermen with their harvest, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources is hiring private oyster growers to help it seed the Chesapeake Bay.

Prior to the change, the University of Maryland Horn Point Hatchery handled the seed and shell operations for both oyster sanctuaries and harvest bars. Using state money and a portion of charges levied on oystermen, the department worked through the Oyster Recovery Partnership to distribute Horn Point’s seed oysters in areas watermen thought would produce the best harvests.

Proposed gas pipeline in VA called a threat to resources, economy

The last slide in Nancy Sorrells’ presentation about the Atlantic Coast Pipeline shows Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” split from top to bottom by a jagged tear — a graphic challenge to assertions by pipeline builder Dominion Transmission, Inc. that the pipeline will be “invisible once in place.”

Sorrells is one of the outspoken opponents of the $5 billion, 550-mile, 42-inch diameter pipeline for transporting natural gas from West Virginia. Though the pipeline would be trenched in and covered over, the project would leave visible a 100-foot cleared right-of-way cutting through forests, and public and private lands.

Bay Program working with feds to better document facilities’ TMDL efforts

The federal government is one of the Chesapeake Bay watershed’s largest landowners and manages an area roughly the size of Delaware’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed, or 5.4 percent of the entire basin.

The land and facilities it controls share little in common except that they are all under federal management, and their owners, like all landowners, have a responsibility to reduce their pollution to meet the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load.

Whether the feds are meeting that obligation, and exactly what it is they are doing, has not been an easy question to answer. But the answer is important for symbolic and very practical reasons.

Canopy plan for park has branched out into city of trees

When Anne and Carl Little first moved to Fredericksburg, VA, their backyard was mostly dirt with a couple of trees. The playground behind their house wasn’t much better, growing more poison ivy than shade for the children.

“It drove me crazy, all those little kids on that hot playground with no trees,” Anne Little said from a gazebo in her backyard, which is now lush with foliage. “I thought, ‘Let’s put some trees around it.’”

In 2007, she and her husband got a $1,000 grant to do just that and planted 17 trees that year. On a walk through that park in May, she pointed out the first foot-and-a-half Sycamore sapling she planted then. Now 35 feet tall, it is hard to miss. It’s even visible over tall fences from her backyard gazebo.

Lancaster, PA, farm’s future depends on nutrient management

Roger Rohrer hasn’t committed any crimes, but he runs his farm as though he’s a man on probation. Standing outside one of his chicken houses in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County, he points to a small fenced area down a grassy slope.

“That is a Strasburg Borough municipal well,” he said. “This whole farm drains right by that watershed.”

Several years ago, he asked his insurance company whether he could get a policy that would protect him in the event of contamination of a municipal well. The answer was no. If there was contamination, Rohrer surmised, he’d be out of business.

Court ruling backs lease for oyster farm in Chincoteague Bay

A landmark oyster lease case in the coastal bays could turn the tide for aquaculture in the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries.

In April, Maryland’s Court of Special Appeals ruled that Donald Marsh, a Harvard Business School graduate-turned-oyster farmer, could have a lease to farm shellfish in Chincoteague Bay, a mile south of South Point and near Ocean City. The case, Michael Diffendal et. al v. Maryland Department of Natural Resources, has wound its way through the courts and the public appeals process for three years. Marsh has been trying to raise oysters for close to five years.

Groups fight to save James River views from overhead power lines

The James River makes a long lazy arc around Hog Island before it enters Burwell Bay on its way to Hampton Roads and the Chesapeake Bay.

Opposite Hog Island and just downstream from Jamestown Island, Carter’s Grove plantation house, like earlier colonial era and American Indian settlements before it, commands a view of the river mostly unchanged since the 1770s and remarkably devoid of modern intrusions.

DC Water overflow project counting on ‘green’ being the new ‘gray’

Even as hulking machines bore water-holding tunnels under the nation’s capital, the city’s water authority is pivoting toward a more nuanced solution to its polluted overflow problem — one that would exchange some underground tunnel boring for greening above the ground.

In May, DC Water and the EPA filed a modification to their 2005 consent decree that would allow the water utility to use green infrastructure as well as “gray” tunnels to absorb excess stormwater in the city.

Baltimore harbor gets improved water quality grades

Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the streams that feed it became cleaner last year, though they still struggled with high loads of bacteria from leaky sewer  pipes and salinity from road salt.

The Baltimore Harbor’s score reached a high of 55 out of 100 possible points, compared to 43 the year the Waterfront Partnership began measuring the harbor in 2012. The tidal Patapsco River did even better, reaching a 57, up from  40 in 2012. The Gwynns Falls wasn’t measured in 2012, but it had a 59 in 2013 and this year went up to a 62.

Only the Jones Falls declined, with a score of 51 as opposed to the 57 it scored in 2013.

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