Bay Journal

May 1998 - Volume 8 - Number 3

Maryland enacts nation’s most strict nutrient law

Maryland's longstanding commitment to controlling agricultural runoff through voluntary actions has been tossed out in favor of what many say is the most strict law governing the use of fertilizer and animal waste in the nation.Acting on its final day, the state General Assembly approved a bill that will require farmers in the next three to seven years to prepare and implement plans guiding their use of fertilizer and animal wastes.

"This session's nutrient management legislation puts Maryland at the forefront of national efforts to protect water resources," said Senator Brian E. Frosh. "The bill launches a strong response to last year's outbreaks of pfiesteria and will provide long-term benefits to our natural resources and the people who use them." ...

Related News:

Glendening tells Congress that federal action in animal waste is needed to save waterways

Environmental issues in the 1998 Virginia General Assembly

The Virginia General Assembly approved spending $54 million over the next two years to control pollution and help the state meet its 40 percent nutrient reduction goal.

Although that was slightly less than the $63 million Gov. Jim Gilmore had originally requested, it still represents a huge increase over the $15 million that had been budgeted for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.

"Never before has so much state funding been allocated to improving Virginia's water quality," said John Paul Woodley Jr., the Virginia secretary of natural resources. ...

Gilmore fills Virginia’s top environmental posts

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore has filled the top environmental positions in his administration and, in contrast to those of his predecessor, his picks have been better received in the environmental community.

John Paul Woodley Jr., Gilmore's choice as Secretary of Natural Resources, pledged in a recent speech at the Virginia Military Institute's annual environmental conference that the new administration would follow through on its pledges to make waterways cleaner, work with federal regulators and vigorously enforce environmental laws. ...

Environmental issues in the 1998 Maryland General Assembly

While much of the attention in Maryland was focused on pfiesteria and nutrient management legislation, the General Assembly also adopted a three-part bill to improve fisheries management, including limited entry to commercial fisheries, apprenticeship to the commercial fisheries, and a noncommercial crabbing license.

Key aspects of the legislation:

  • The Department of Natural Resources will cap commercial fisheries at current levels, so there will be no expansion of the fishing effort. Most of the state's fisheries are at or above full exploitation. By limiting the number of commercial licenses issued and gear used, the intent of the legislation is to protect the commercial and biological viability of species. The limited entry program also helps ensure that licenses are managed in a way that allows watermen to continue to make a living.
  • Establishment of an apprenticeship program. This program is designed to allow individuals a fair and equitable manner of entering the commercial fish business. Individuals applying for licenses are placed on waiting lists. This bill allows individuals on the list with prior commercial fishing experience to obtain a license. For others, it sets criteria and a system for individuals to apprentice in a fishery for at least two years before being issued a commercial fishing license. Licenses will only be granted if there is an available slot under the participation targets established in the limited entry program.
  • Reinstatement of a noncommercial crabbing license which had been repealed in 1994. Revenue from the license will help fund studies that will determine the extent of the noncommercial crabbing catch, which would help management decisions. The bill establishes a daily catch limit of two bushels per license holder, and gear restriction of 600 to 1,200 feet of trotline and 10 to 30 crab traps or rings. Fees for the license are $5 for residents, $10 for nonresidents and $2 for residents who possess a Chesapeake Bay sportfishing license. Individuals who catch less than one bushel of crabs and use hand lines, dip nets, trotline less than 600 feet, less than 10 crab traps or rings and waterfront property owners using two crab pots are exempt.

In other action, the General Assembly: ...

Maryland bans dredging in Bay grass beds

Bay grasses won new protection from the Maryland legislature, which banned all clam dredging in beds in the Chesapeake and in the state's coastal bays.

Scientists had raised concern in recent months that clam dredging was damaging hundreds of acres of grass beds. The scars appeared as spaghetti-like trails through the grass beds in  photos taken during an annual aerial survey conducted by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.

The legislation, which passed unanimously in both the House and Senate, prohibits all hydraulic clam dredging within grass beds, and says the Maryland Department of Natural Resources can take "additional measures" to protect the beds. It will be up to the DNR to determine exactly what constitutes a grass bed. ...

SRBC, Baltimore at odds over right to tap Susquehanna water supply

A conflict is brewing over who controls the tap on the largest tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission - which regulates water use on the Bay's largest tributary - will decide in May whether it should begin regulating present and future withdrawals by Baltimore, which is located outside the river's drainage basin. The city says the commission has no right to regulate its withdrawal. The outcome could ultimately affect water quality in the upper Chesapeake, the health of grass beds in the upper Bay, and efforts aimed at restoring shad on the Susquehanna. ...

Parasite that could sicken humans found in Bay oysters near sewage, farm runoff

Oysters harvested in areas of the Chesapeake Bay close to sources of sewage or farm runoff were found to contain a parasite that could make humans ill, scientists have found.

In a study published in the March issue of the journal, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, scientists said they sought to determine if oysters harbor cryptosporidium. The parasite sickened 400,000 people after it was found in Milwaukee's drinking water in 1993.

It's transmitted only by drinking contaminated water or by swallowing something tainted with infected human or animal feces. Cooking food and boiling beverages for one minute kills the parasite. ...

March flows 1.5 times higher than average

Streamflows into the Chesapeake Bay surged at near-record levels for the third straight month in March, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

In March, freshwater streamflow into the Bay averaged about 144 billion gallons per day, almost 1.5 times higher than the average flow for the month, according to the USGS. Streamflow in both January and February averaged more than twice the normal amount.

The USGS attributed the high streamflows to unusually warm temperatures and frequent, heavy rainfall. Water that would usually be on the ground in the form of snow - which typically melts more gradually - is running directly off the land and into rivers and streams. ...

New rules to help ancient horseshoe crab stick around a bit longer

Despite its name, the horseshoe crab isn't a true crab at all. In fact, it's more closely related to the spider and the mite. 

Nor, despite its name, has the horseshoe crab been very lucky of late. When the ancient creature isn't being chopped up and used for bait to catch eels, conch and catfish, its blood is being sucked in the name of medicine.

Coastwide, horseshoe crab harvests have increased dramatically in the past decade, soaring from 1 million pounds in 1990 to 4.5 million in 1996. That has biologists worried that the stock, which is concentrated in the mid-Atlantic between Virginia and New Jersey, may be in decline - something that threatens not only the horseshoe crab, but a variety of species that depend on them. ...

Pocomoke, Potomac, Mattaponi make ‘endangered’ rivers list

Three Chesapeake Bay tributaries, variously threatened by dam construction, animals wastes and development, were listed among the most "endangered" waterways named this year by a national river conservation group.

The group, American Rivers, named the Pocomoke River - site of last year's fish killing pfiesteria outbreak - as the nation's third most endangered river.

The Potomac, which the group said was threatened by factory poultry farms, cattle feedlots in upstream rural areas and development in the Washington area, was ranked 12th. ...

MD plans to condemn Chapman’s Landing

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening plans to go to court to force the developers of Chapman's Landing to sell the state 2,300 forested acres along the Potomac River in Charles County.

The Conservation Fund, acting on behalf of the state, offered $25 million for the property, but the governor said in early April that the offer had been rejected.

"We have been informed in writing by the developer that his asking price remains substantially higher than $25 million - the greater of the two appraisals. This is totally unacceptable,"  Glendening said. ...

VA DEQ chief to look into projects used to offset pollution fines

As the new director of the state's Department of Environmental Quality, Dennis H. Treacy is taking a look at a program that allows polluters to spend money on environmental projects instead of paying fines.

Since he was appointed acting director in March, Treacy has put three projects on hold to give him time to study the program and solutions the polluters are prepared to offer. "I want them to reflect meaningful enforcement," he said.

Under the Supplemental Environmental Project program, a polluter can pay part or all of a penalty by financing an environmental project such as wetlands restoration or habitat preservation. ...

Pamunkey shad hatchery shows off renovations

On April days, as they've done almost every spring since 1918, the Pamunkey Indians are busy raising thousands of shad fry in their riverside hatchery in King William County, VA. A typical day sees the hatchery staff tending to their bubbling tanks of fry as brine shrimp aerators, rearing food for the fry, hum in the background.

On April 13, though, the scene was interrupted by dozens of people milling around the light gray shed. The visitors were staring into the new holding tanks, looking for the tell-tale, black eye dots of the tiny shad larvae while getting a first-hand tour of the Pamunkey tribe's newly renovated American shad hatchery. ...

Bay Program adopts guidelines for fisheries management plans

The long-term goal of the Bay Program is to protect, restore and maintain the "living resources" of the Chesapeake.

One of the tools to accomplish that is fishery management plans - documents that provide the decision-making framework that guides actions for particular fish species, such as harvest levels.

All of the Bay Program's fishery management plans are for single species only. But starting last year, fishery management plans have taken a broader scope, with the approval of plans for blue crab and black drum that include specific habitat protection and restoration goals. ...

It’s a fish-eat-fish world

Look what's been happening around the Bay in the past few months:

  • Maryland slashed horseshoe crab harvests out of concern there were not enough crabs left for migrating birds.
  • Virginia and Maryland restricted clam dredging in grass beds, citing the need to protect those areas for other species, such as blue crabs.
  • Some fishermen have raised concerns that there are not enough menhaden in the Bay to feed growing stocks of predators, including striped bass, bluefish and weakfish.

Welcome to the emerging world of "multispecies management" where, it seems, every action cascades though the ecosystem like so many falling dominoes.Multispecies management is a recent concept that recognizes no fish stock exists on its own, but depends on complex interactions with other species, whether for food or habitat. ...

Related News:

Bay Program adopts guidelines for fisheries management plans

Glendening tells Congress that federal action in animal waste is needed to save waterways

Even with Maryland implementing what may be the nation's toughest nutrient control laws, Gov. Parris Glendening said they may not be tough enough to protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Testifying before the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee in April, the governor called for federal action to regulate animal wastes and protect the nation's waterways, saying that pollutants do not stop at the state line.

"No matter what steps Maryland - or any individual state - takes, unless these internal steps are complemented by real and meaningful national regulations, only incomplete solutions to the problem will ever be achieved," Glendening told the senators. ...

Sneads Farm Asparagus Festival May 27-29 in Fredericksburg, VA
Ernst Conservation Seeds: Restoring the Native Balance.
Tour dem Parks, hon.

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