Bay Journal

November 2016 - Volume 26 - Number 8
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After 10 years, Smith Trail slowly coming together

Along the James River, an outfitter in the Richmond area now weaves tales of the 17th-century Chesapeake Bay into paddling tours and fishing trips.

Farther north, in Virginia’s Caledon State Park on the Potomac River, kayakers can stay overnight at paddle-in campsites where none existed three years ago.

Still farther north, a new kayak launch on the lower Susquehanna River offers free access to the Bay’s largest tributary. A large sign identifies the stone building there as a visitor contact station on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Soft shell clam making a modest comeback in Bay, on menus

Most years, Moochie Gilmer scoops up little more than razor clams from the sandy Chesapeake Bay bottom near Kent Island. The 62-year-old waterman has been selling his catch from there as bait to crabbers since the late 1980s.

But in the last three years, the hydraulic dredge aboard his boat, “In Lieu Of,” has brought up a growing number of soft shell clams, rarer finds these days that garner double the price of razors. He sells them mostly to buyers in the Northeast, who use them in chowder, fry them as whole-belly clams or steam them. Lately, though, he’s been holding back a growing number for local eaters.

New VA plant promises cleaner way to make paper

Construction is under way on a Chinese company’s $2 billion manufacturing plant on the James River in Virginia’s Chesterfield County. Though state officials recruited what the governor called “the largest greenfield project ever done in the United States,” environmental advocates remain wary that the massive plant can proceed without degrading the Chesapeake Bay tributary.

Once constructed, Shandong Tranlin Paper Co., which is doing business in the United States under the name Vastly, said the 850-acre facility will employ about 2,000 people by 2020. But the plant — and those jobs — won’t be coming for many months or possibly years, as company executives wade through a prolonged process to collect the 20-plus permits necessary to operate the sprawling facility.

Maryland looking at Virginia’s oyster management method

As Maryland watermen seek to shake up their state’s management of the Chesapeake Bay oyster fishery, they’re looking south, where landings in Virginia’s public fishery last year were six times what they were a decade ago.

Maryland’s wild harvest has actually surpassed Virginia’s in the last four years, as it enjoyed a similar boom. With a strong tradition of private oyster farming, Virginia gets more bivalves from leased bottom areas than from its public fishery.
But it’s the way that the Old Dominion manages its public fishery, rather than the overall result, that has drawn the interest of its northern neighbors.

Eels returning to Susquehanna; will mussels, water quality follow?

Wearing a battery-powered electro-shocker on his back, Josh Newhard came up short as he waded knee-deep in Buffalo Creek to probe for any eels lurking under rocks or along its banks.

“Well, that’s something we haven’t seen before,” he said. Just ahead, a herd of cows standing in the central Pennsylvania creek stared back at Newhard and the other five U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists with him.

The biologists were using their equipment to catch and survey eels that have been stocked in the creek in recent years. As with the rest of the Susquehanna River basin, the snakelike fish had been absent for most of the last century.

PA’s lagging Bay cleanup gets fiscal transfusion, but needs more

Pennsylvania’s lagging Bay cleanup got a much-needed fiscal transfusion when restoration leaders met in early October and pledged $28 million to fund conservation efforts in the commonwealth.

But as lawmakers in Harrisburg were reminded a couple of weeks later, the Keystone State still faces a huge funding gap over the coming decade to meet its Bay pollution reduction obligations.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, meeting with other members of the Chesapeake Executive Council Oct. 4 in Boyce, VA, acknowledged that his state “has some explaining to do” for its failure to meet agreed-upon pollution reduction milestones, and said he would commit $11.8 million more to the effort by shifting funds in the commonwealth’s budget.

Solar energy runs into resistance in Maryland

Until recently, the future for solar energy in Maryland and Virginia looked blindingly bright — with the vast, flat farmland of the Eastern Shore seemingly fertile ground for planting thousands of photovoltaic arrays. Solar panel prices had come down, state and federal incentives had ramped up, and corporations committed to shrinking their carbon footprint were eager to invest.

But lawsuits and citizen opposition have cast at least a temporary shadow over solar’s growth outlook in Maryland. Like wind before it — which environmentalists supported to wean the nation from fossil fuels, but residents sometimes opposed because of noise and bird deaths — solar energy is running into some resistance.

Cloud lingers over MD paper mill’s impact on Potomac

A lit cigar in his mouth and a fly rod near his knee, Harold Harsh rows his blue raft down the North Branch of the Potomac River, past the smokestacks of the Luke paper mill in Maryland and the forlorn towns along the West Virginia bank. The water is so clear he can count the stones on the bottom — until he reaches the plant responsible for treating the paper mill’s waste.

There, the air smells like rotten eggs. The water changes to chocolate brown, bubbling up from five discharge points across the river. For more than a mile, it will remain this way, with trout skirting the cloudy effluent but not darting into it. Casting his fly outside the brown zone, Harsh’s line catches a native brook trout and then several large, silvery rainbows. Even so, the experienced guide said he doesn’t often bring paying customers here.

“You never know what it’s going to look like until you get here,” he said. “Some days it will look like this — and this is not bad — and some days it will be 10 times worse. What we’re seeing here is what they say they can’t clean out because they will go bankrupt trying to keep this water clean.”

PA municipalities begin uphill paddle to reach runoff goals, one stroke at a time

Pennsylvania is beginning to tackle its mammoth and long-neglected stormwater runoff problems, beginning the work in some unlikely places.

Blair County, a good 180 miles from the Chesapeake Bay, has begun to corral the various municipalities within its 340,000 mostly forested acres to work on cleaning the runoff from their developed areas.
Lancaster, a city so firmly rooted in the past that Amish buggies still ply its streets, has become a model nationwide for green streets and green roofs.

And Harrisburg, which declared bankruptcy and couldn’t even air-condition its own city hall five years ago, has managed to restructure itself and begin to unclog its drains. Those efforts are starting to intercept at least a little of the polluted runoff bound for the Susquehanna; instead, the rain soaks into the ground, gets reused or is otherwise kept out of the degraded river.

Environmentalists find flaws in MD localities’ stormwater plans

The “rain tax” controversy in Maryland just won’t die.

The state’s largest localities were freed from having to levy unpopular stormwater remediation fees, and Gov. Larry Hogan said they’ve come up with “innovative plans” for financing the costly effort to reduce polluted runoff.

Environmentalists, though, contend that many of those plans are fundamentally flawed and that some localities are skimping on their obligation to meet stormwater cleanup requirements.

New plan to limit bycatch of shad, river herring rebuffed

A push from anglers and conservationists to get stronger protections for depleted stocks of the Chesapeake Bay’s iconic shad and river herring has been rebuffed, as mid-Atlantic fishery regulators have refused to include the species in federally prescribed plans for controlling harvests of fish caught off the East Coast.

Thousands of recreational fishermen and officials in Pennsylvania appealed to the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council this week to add the four migratory species – Atlantic and hickory shad and alewife and blueback herring – to plans they already have for managing offshore commercial fishing.  Advocates warned that oceangoing trawlers have driven already diminished populations of shad and river herring to the verge of oblivion by accidentally catching them while pursuing other fish, a process known as bycatch.

Ernst Seed: Restoring the Native Balance
Valliant and Associates
Ecotone

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