Bay Journal

November 2000 - Volume 10 - Number 8

Panel recommends limit for crab harvests

For the first time, key officials from Virginia and Maryland are recommending a Baywide catch limit for blue crabs, the most valuable commercial species in the Chesapeake today.

The Bi-State Blue Crab Advisory Committee in late September adopted an overfishing threshold that says 10 percent of the spawning potential of crabs should be protected to reproduce each year to avert a potential population crisis.

By adopting the threshold, recommended by a panel of leading scientists, the committee set in motion a series of hearings this fall to determine what management options might be considered to maintain the limit. That could lead to new regulatory actions in both states and for the Potomac River next year. Hearing participants will also discuss whether a lower harvest “target” should be adopted to add a margin of safety to the threshold. ...

Army of volunteers, soldiers celebrate Public Lands Day

Soldiers and civilian volunteers planted native vegetation, erected bird boxes and built low-impact hiking trails at U.S. Army installations in the Chesapeake Bay watershed Sept. 23 as part of a nationwide celebration of National Public Lands Day.

At Aberdeen Proving Ground in northeast Maryland, 75 volunteers — including the staff of the U.S. Army Environmental Center, soldiers and Boy Scouts — planted a BayScapes demonstration garden. Meanwhile, 25 volunteers began another BayScapes garden on 4.5 acres at the main gate of Fort Lee, next to the James River in Virginia. ...

EPA, USF &WS join opposition to VA reservoir

Two federal agencies have reiterated their opposition to the 12.2-billion-gallon reservoir that Newport News wants to build in a marshy, wooded valley in Virginia’s King William County.

The EPA and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently contacted the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, objecting to the King William Reservoir because 437 acres of ecologically valuable wetlands would be destroyed in order to build it.

The Corps is expected to decide in November whether to issue a permit that would allow reservoir builders to destroy the wetlands. ...

Small Watershed Grants Program gets $1.25 million

The Bay Program’s Small Watershed Grants Program, which supports community-based restoration projects, will get a big boost in the coming year.

Congress approved $1.25 million for the program, an increase from the $750,000 that had been available in each of the three previous years. The program provides grants which usually range between $5,000 and $35,000 to local projects that demonstrate effective watershed protection techniques. The new money may be available for grants next spring. ...

Congress gives oyster restoration projects $1.45 million

The Bay Program’s plan for a tenfold oyster increase in the next decade got a boost from Congress, which appropriated nearly $4.15 million for oyster restoration projects in the coming year.

Oysters historically were a critical part of the Bay ecosystem; their reefs provided habitat for a wide variety of fish and other species, while the oysters themselves filtered large amounts of algae and sediment, helping to clear the water.

Because of their key role, many scientists have increasingly suggested that Bay cleanup efforts must include oyster restoration along with nutrient reductions. ...

Park Service gets $800,000 to expand Gateways Network

Congress has doubled the money available for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network in the coming year, which will help to incorporate more natural, historic and cultural sites and water trails into the emerging network of special Bay places.

The National Park Service will have $800,000 to distribute next year as grants for trails, the development of educational materials and other improvements at sites that are part of the Gateways Network.

The Gateways Network, launched last summer, is a linked system of museums, wildlife refuges, parks and other sites that highlight historic, cultural and natural aspects of the Bay and its watershed. ...

Congress reauthorizes Bay Program

A bill that could double Bay Program funding, and officially extends the life of the state-federal cleanup partnership through 2005, cleared Congress in October and was sent to President Clinton.

The Chesapeake Bay Restoration Act reauthorizes the existence of the EPA’s Bay Program, and would allow Congress to spend up to $40 million a year on it.

That doesn’t mean the money will actually materialize: Congress still must specifically approve actual appropriations each year; in the fiscal year that began Oct. 1, it approved $19.7 million. ...

Act seeks to restore 1 million acres of estuarine habitat

The pace of habitat restoration in the Bay could be dramatically increased under legislation approved by Congress in October which seeks to restore 1 million acres of estuary habitat around the nation during the next decade.

The Estuaries and Clean Waters Act of 2000 would establish a national restoration strategy for estuarine habitat and authorizes Congress to spend $275 million over the next five years on habitat projects such as wetland and underwater grass bed restoration to help achieve the million-acre goal. ...

Congress approves 36-year effort to rescue Everglades from brink

Congress has approved the initial investment in one of the largest environmental restoration projects in the nation’s history, a 36-year, $7.8 billion effort to rescue the Florida Everglades.

It authorizes a down payment of $1.4 billion for the restoration of the Everglades, the 300-mile “River of Grass” that is one of America’s greatest but most-imperiled natural resources.

The project, said Rep. Porter Goss, R-FL, “represents the largest, most comprehensive environmental restoration ever attempted.” It will reverse years of neglect that have “brought the Florida Everglades to the brink of disaster.” ...

AmeriCorps will take your environmental job and love it

Situation Wanted: Labor intensive environmental restoration and education programs that require weeks of work but show substantial results. Seeking only food and lodging.

If the AmeriCorps*National Civilian Community Corps were taking out an ad, it would probably read something like that.

The NCCC, as it is known, assembles volunteers ages 18-24 into teams of 10 to 12 members, and dispatches them to help with a variety of environmental, education and other public service tasks. “You have 10–12 people with a team leader showing up on time for a full 40-hour week,” said Rodger Hurley, NCCC national projects director. “They will do a tremendous volume of work.” ...

Swans ready to ‘follow the leader’ to the Bay

Sometime this fall, biologists using an ultralight will try for the third straight year to lead a group of giant trumpeter swans from western New York to the Chesapeake Bay.

If they successfully make the 330-mile flight to the Eastern Shore — and the swans make the return trip to New York on their own next spring — it will be an important milestone in efforts to restore a migratory population of the bird, which was wiped out by settlers in the region more than two centuries ago.

The project is headed by the research organization, Environmental Studies at Airlie, which has used ultralights for years to teach waterfowl to migrate — something popularized in the movie “Fly Away Home.” ...

Population goals for 14 Bay waterfowl species met; 7 miss mark

The Bay Program will meet the year 2000 population goals it set for 14 waterfowl species around the Chesapeake, but it will fall short of its mark for seven others.

Officials say the rebound suggests that habitat restoration, such as wetland creation and enhancement, both here and elsewhere are paying off for many species of ducks and other waterfowl.

At the same time, the lack of improvement in some important habitats, such as underwater grass beds, is holding back the recovery of other species. ...

Most Americans want greater effort to control sprawl, poll reports

More than three out of four Americans say more needs to be done to stem suburban sprawl, and more than half say traffic in their communities is getting worse, according to a new poll.

About 76 percent of the 1,007 respondents contacted in the telephone poll said more needs to be done to manage and plan for new growth and development in their state, while 13 percent said less. The telephone poll conducted in September was commissioned by Smart Growth America, a nationwide coalition of more than 60 public interest groups, including the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. ...

Study finds auto emissions to be leading source of some Bay toxics

Tailpipes may be toxic for the Bay’s aquatic life because they are the leading source for some of the most harmful chemicals entering the Chesapeake, a new study suggests.

In the study, scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science analyzed hundreds of air, water and sediment samples collected throughout the Bay and concluded that many polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) stemmed from motor vehicle emissions.

PAHs, which occur naturally in fossil fuels, are on the EPA’s “top 20” list of hazardous substances, as well as the Bay Program “Chemicals of Concern” list. The study, which presented results from more than 400 samples collected during the 1990s was published in the journal, Environmental Science & Technology. ...

Handcrafted Baylab offers fish-eye view of Chesapeake inhabitants

Two men recently spent a couple of days in a homemade underwater habitat to photograph the part of the Chesapeake Bay that most people never see.

Baylab rests in about 15 feet of water in Milford Haven, between Gwynn’s Island and mainland Mathews, just off the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia.

Morgan Wells, a retired scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Charlie Depping, who retired from a chemical company, donned protective suits and dropped into the water on a mid-October afternoon. ...

Revisted toxics strategy targets curbs on contaminated runoff

In an effort to crack down on contaminant pollution to the Chesapeake, the Bay Program is calling for a “no net increase” in toxic stormwater runoff from developed lands after 2010.

The commitment in the Bay Program’s new toxics strategy means, in effect, that any new development after 2010 would have to either produce no toxic runoff, or find ways to offset any additional chemical pollution.

The change, agreed upon in October by the Bay Program’s Principals’ Staff Committee, was among the finishing touches to the toxics strategy and resolved one of the most debated aspects of the revised toxics strategy: how to handle runoff. ...

Connecticut suit challenges constitutionality of fishing quotas

In a move that could dramatically change the way coastal fisheries are managed, the state of Connecticut has challenged the constitutionality of federally enforced fishing quotas.

Upset with the state’s allocation of summer flounder, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal this summer charged that federal laws illegally impose quotas on states without their agreement.

The suit challenges the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which regulates catches in federal waters more than three miles offshore, and the 1993 Atlantic Coastal Fisheries Cooperative Management Act, which gives the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission the authority to set catch limits on nearshore fish, including many Bay species. ...

VA agrees to slash horseshoe crab harvest, averting showdown

A showdown over an ancient sea creature was averted in October, as Virginia agreed to slash its harvests of horseshoe crabs.

The state’s action came just five days after U.S. Commerce Secretary Norman Mineta announced he would close the state’s horseshoe crab fishery Oct. 23 if it did not adopt the catch limit assigned by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

The threat was defused at an Oct. 17 ASMFC meeting when Virginia agreed to the quota. At the same time, the ASMFC agreed to amend its horseshoe crab management plan to allow other states to voluntarily transfer unused quotas to Virginia, where the crabs are important bait in its valuable conch fishery. ...

Eastern Shore man tries to save small Bay island

Stephen White knows some people think he’s fighting a losing battle, but he is determined to save a small island in the Chesapeake that is being eroded by the surf.

Every weekend, White, 70, loads his boat with rocks for a jetty on Holland Island, which he bought five years ago. Waves have cut the 11/2-mile-long island into three pieces and reduced its size to less than half of what it was 50 years ago.

Rising tides and erosion have already claimed a dozen islands in Maryland and Virginia. Scientists say most of the rest will be consumed by the end of this century. ...

Spawning shad boost Bay population

The Bay states stocked a record number of shad this year to help rebuild the population, but surveys indicate that Mother Nature provided a natural boost of her own.

Maryland biologists reported the best shad reproduction on record from “wild” fish, while Virginia biologists saw their second best year. Poor reproduction was reported in Pennsylvania, though.

Shad were once the most valuable commercial fishery in the Bay and through the 1800s, millions of them were routinely seen in spring spawning runs up many rivers. But overfishing, pollution and dam construction took their toll, and shad populations have been low in the Bay for decades. ...

ASMFC releases draft management plan for menhaden

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has released a draft of its revised management plan for Atlantic menhaden.

The revised plan was triggered by concerns that the coastwide menhaden population was in decline and that the existing plan was not adequately protecting the fish.

The existing plan relies on six “triggers” to monitor the health of the stock, but because the majority of those triggers were based on catch data, the ASMFC’s Menhaden Management Board was concerned they did not actually reflect the status of the stock. Also, the existing plan does not direct any action to be taken when a trigger is reached. ...

Rockfish spawning above average in MD, near record in VA

Striped bass spawning was above average in Maryland this year and was the third highest level on record in Virginia, continuing a trend of better-than-normal reproductive success that has prevailed in the Bay for most of the last decade.

The Maryland index, an average of small “young of year” fish caught during seine net monitoring surveys this summer, was 13.8 compared with an average of 10.9 since the survey began 47 years ago.

Virginia’s index was 16, far above its average of 6.5. The Virginia index dates only to the 1970s and doesn’t include several years in the early 1980s. ...

Plan could cut nitrogen loads to Gulf by 30%

In an effort to clean up the Gulf of Mexico “dead zone,” nearly half of the nation may soon be undertaking nitrogen reduction programs like those under way in the Bay watershed for the past decade.

A state-federal-tribal task force in October tentatively agreed to a plan to cut the size of the Gulf’s oxygen-depleted dead zone — which in 1998 grew to the size of New Jersey — nearly in half by 2015.

Accomplishing that could mean a 30 percent reduction in the amount of nitrogen exported from the Mississippi River watershed, an area that drains all or part of 31 states. ...

Ward Oyster Co.

Features

Ernst Conservation Seeds: Restoring the Native Balance.
A Documentary Inspired by William W. Warner’s 1976 Exploration of Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay.

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