Bay Journal

July-August 2000 - Volume 10 - Number 5

Executive Council signs ‘historic’ new Bay Pact

Offering the promise of a future in which sprawl is reigned in, the Chesapeake is cleaned up and oysters are on the rebound, Bay leaders have signed off on a strengthened agreement to guide restoration efforts for at least the next decade.

The agreement not only sets measurable limits on sprawl, it carries those efforts across states lines — a first in the nation. In addition, it pledges to preserve one in five acres as permanent open space within the next decade. “This new agreement is historic, without a doubt,” said EPA Administrator Carol Browner. ...

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Erosion threatens 25% of structures on U.S. coasts

One-fourth of the buildings within 500 feet of the nation’s coastlines are threatened by erosion in the next 60 years.

A study released by the Federal Emergency Management Agency concluded that close to 87,000 homes and other buildings stand on land likely to wash away into the oceans or the Great Lakes.

“The findings are sobering,” FEMA Director James Lee Witt said in a statement. “If coastal development continues unabated, and if the sea levels rise as some scientists are predicting, the impact will be even worse.” ...

Congress moves to stop EPA from enforcing new TMDL rules

Congress has moved to halt the EPA’s efforts to require enforceable new water cleanup strategies for polluted lakes, rivers, streams and estuaries across the nation.

Language attached to an $11 billion emergency spending bill prohibits the agency from implementing its proposed new rules to guide development of cleanup plans known as Total Maximum Daily Loads before October 2001. The new rules, proposed last fall, have drawn widespread opposition.

The administration earlier had prevented several other provisions it considered harmful to the environment from being added to the bill, which won final passage on June 30, but a White House spokeswoman said the TMDL language was added “late in the game without warning.” ...

Report suggests poor striped bass health linked to lack of menhaden

The diet of striped bass in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay has shifted significantly in recent years years, resulting in smaller — and possibly less healthy — fish, according to a new study.

After reviewing the stomach contents of more than 1,000 rockfish, scientists concluded that striped bass were finding fewer menhaden to eat than in the past. Instead, they are resorting to alternatives such as grass shrimp and blue crabs. As a result, the rockfish are growing more slowly than in the past. ...

Study finds high rate of tumors in catfish caught in Anacostia

Some catfish in the Anacostia River have high rates of liver and skin tumors that appear to result from cancer-causing contaminants in the sediment, according to a newly released survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While contamination in the Anacostia, which flows through Washington, D.C., is not new — it is one of three toxic “hot spots” identified by the Bay Program — the survey found that the prevalence of tumors in the fish rivaled that in some of the most polluted sections of the Great Lakes. ...

Plan to use Site 104 dropped after toxics found in dredged material

Gov. Parris Glendening announced that Maryland has scrapped its consideration of using “Site 104” in the Chesapeake Bay for the disposal of sediment dredged from shipping channels after the discovery of potentially harmful levels of toxics in the material.

Plans to put the dredged sediment at a deep area of the Chesapeake just north of the Bay Bridge, long known as Site 104, had drawn wide opposition from environmentalists and many area residents. But ruling out that low-cost option for sediment disposal could dramatically increase the cost of channel dredging. ...

Mercury from upwind air pollution may pose threat to fish

Concern has grown in recent years about the huge amount of airborne nitrogen that drifts into the Bay watershed from upwind pollution sources.

Now, a new study may give Bay states a new gripe about their upwind neighbors — some of their mercury is building up in fish within the watershed.

A recent report produced for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources found that large fish in some reservoirs had mercury levels in their flesh that exceed federal guidelines.

Too few fish were sampled to conclude whether human consumption advisories are warranted. But the state is conducting an expanded study this year to determine whether mercury levels in fish are high enough to pose a threat to humans who eat them. ...

Construction begins on oyster reef in Rappahannock

Virginia’s Oyster Heritage Program has begun construction on a three-dimensional oyster reef in the Rappahannock River in its latest effort to restore oyster populations in state waters.

Secretary of Natural Resources John Paul Woodley, in announcing the $108,000 grant to the Virginia Oyster Reef Heritage Foundation, noted that the funds came from Virginians who had made a voluntary contribution to the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Fund through the state income tax checkoff.

The first phase of the oyster restoration program includes the construction of nine, 1-acre reefs on the Rappahannock. Each of these 8– 10-foot-high broodstock sanctuary reefs will be surrounded by 25 acres of 10-inch deep oyster shell, at a total cost of about $384,000 per site. ...

Bipartisan bill would expand NOAA’s role in Bay restoration effort

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s activities in the Bay would be expanded under legislation sponsored by Sen. Paul Sarbanes D-MD. Joining Sarbanes in introducing the bipartisan legislation were Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD, Sen. Chuck Robb, D-VA, and John Warner, R-VA.

“NOAA has played a critical role in the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay and its living resources,” Sarbanes said. “This legislation will expand upon NOAA’s successful efforts by beginning a new wave of Bay research, which will include an emphasis on an overall Bay restoration strategy.” ...

VA creates sanctuary to protect spawning female blue crabs

A huge swath of the Chesapeake Bay has been declared off-limits to crabbers by Virginia as part of an ongoing effort to stabilize the population of the Bay’s most valuable fishery.

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission in June created a 660-square-mile deep-water sanctuary which scientists believe will protect 40 percent of the Bay’s spawning females.

The sanctuary, generally located in water more than 35 feet deep, will be closed to crabbing from June 1 through Sept. 15 each year, a time frame that corresponds with the crab’s spawning season. ...

Chesapeake ‘Gateways’ sites unveiled

From its headwaters in New York, to Norfolk near its mouth, Bay residents and visitors will soon have new “gateways” to the Chesapeake.

National Park Service Director Robert Stanton announced the first 23 sites — from water trails to museums to wildlife refuges — that will be part of the new Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network which highlights historic, cultural and natural aspects of the Bay and its watershed.

“We’re uncovering and polishing and beginning to string together some of the Chesapeake Bay’s most precious pearls,” said Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-MD, who has pushed the gateways concept for years. Linked together in a network, he said, the sites “will showcase the wealth of resources that make up the Chesapeake Bay.” ...

Ridge signs bills aimed at curbing sprawl in Pennsylvania

Last year, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed “Growing Greener” legislation to fund watershed planning, environmental cleanups and open space preservation for the next five years.

This year, for an encore, it has passed “Growing Smarter” legislation, which takes effect in August.

With it, Pennsylvania has joined the national trend toward improving land use decisions as the General Assembly passed, and Gov. Tom Ridge signed, a pair of bills aimed at slowing suburban sprawl by giving communities the ability to work together to control development and preserve open space. ...

Bay Program updates toxics strategy, targets areas for reduction efforts

Thirteen years after the 1987 Bay Agreement called for controlling toxic discharges to protect aquatic and human health, the Bay Program has mixed results.

Fish consumption advisories exist in 21 parts of the Bay watershed. Three parts of the tidal Bay region are considered toxic hot spots. Bay Program reports suggest that at least another 10 tidal areas are likely to have contamination problems.

At the same time, toxics released from industries have declined sharply in the watershed, farmers are using fewer pesticides and hundreds of businesses are actively practicing “pollution prevention” to stop pollution before it starts. ...

Bay Program, businesses seek ‘zero-release’ toxic pollution goal

Just outside pollution-plagued Mexico City, a paint plant has been working to eliminate toxic air emissions. It has not achieved the goal, but its efforts are already paying off: When other plants have to shut down on bad air quality days, the paint plant continues to operate — which means higher profits.

The plant, owned by E.I. DuPont de Nemours and Co., isn’t required to make the pollution cuts. Instead, it’s striving to achieve the corporation’s goal of zero pollution.

At a Bay Program forum on toxic pollution last year, Paul Tebo, DuPont’s vice president of Safety, Health and Environment, used that example to explain why the company’s policy — “The Goal is Zero” — makes sense for his industry, and others. ...

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Bay Program updates toxics strategy, targets areas for reduction efforts

Bay Program perceived as successful with room for improvement

The Bay Program has successfully led efforts to restore the Chesapeake but has failed to articulate a vision to the public of what a cleaned-up Bay should look like, according to a new report to Congress.

As it begins to make good on promises made in the new Chesapeake 2000 Agreement, the report says, the Bay Program still faces key challenges in managing growth, creating a stewardship ethic within the public and generating more cooperation — especially with local governments.

Those are some of the conclusions of a two-year review of the Bay Program carried out by the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay. The findings were based on hundreds of responses from a Bay Journal questionnaire, dozens of focus groups and nearly 100 one-on-one interviews conducted with regional leaders in government, environmental groups, business and agriculture. ...

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