Bay Journal

December 2002 - Volume 12 - Number 9

Clearer picture of ‘clean’ Chesapeake Bay emerging

More than two years ago, regional and federal leaders promised to take a big step forward in the Bay’s restoration by cleaning up its water by the end of the decade. But they never said what a “cleaned up” Bay would look like.

Now, for the first time, a picture is starting to emerge of what the Chesapeake 2000 agreement goal would mean in terms of water quality.

According to recent estimates, enough algae and dirt would be removed from the Chesapeake Bay’s water to allow underwater grasses to cover 200,000 acres or more — several times what exists today. ...

New book questions political will behind Chesapeake cleanup

The biggest obstacle to cleaning up the Bay is not increased pollution, a new book suggests, but rather politicians — many of whom routinely pledge to restore the Chesapeake.

The book, written by a Naval Academy political scientist, describes “a fairly bleak political landscape” in which lawmakers lack the political will to provide the money — or back laws and regulations — needed to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

The result, argues author Howard Ernst, is that nearly 30 years of talking about cleaning the Bay has yielded scant improvement in the Chesapeake instead of the thriving and healthy ecosystem that is repeatedly promised. ...

EPA seeks comments on web site listing compliance records of regulated facilities

The EPA is taking public comments on a new web site that gives the public and industry direct access to the current environmental compliance record of more than 800,000 regulated facilities nationwide.

The new Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO) web site was developed in partnership with the Environmental Council of the States, a national association representing state and territorial environmental commissions.

When final, ECHO will provide users with detailed facility reports, including federal and state compliance inspections, environmental violations, recent formal enforcement actions taken and a demographic profile of the surrounding area. ...

Public endorses Chesapeake Bay park; study moves forward

Hundreds of people offered a general endorsement for the creation of a National Park unit focusing on the Chesapeake Bay during a series of public workshops this fall.

As a result, Park Service officials are working on a draft report that will offer more specifics about what different park options would look like if they were to become a reality.

That draft report, expected to be completed by the end of winter, will be the focus of a separate round of meetings early next year.

The next draft will reflect public reactions to the initial six concepts the Park Service presented for a national park area, which covered everything from a single interpretive center to the preservation of a fishing community or a representative small watershed. ...

Environmental education grants available

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Chesapeake Bay Office recently announced the availability of $1.85 million in grants from its Bay Watershed Education and Training (B-WET) Program.

The grants are available to implement projects in two priority areas:

  • Providing a “meaningful” Chesapeake Bay or stream outdoor experience to students.
  • Professional development for teachers in the Bay watershed in the area of environmental education.

Funding is available to K-12 public and independent schools and school systems, institutions of higher education, community-based organizations, nonprofits, state or local government agencies, interstate agencies and Indian tribal governments. ...

Small Watershed Grants Program seeking proposals

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and the Chesapeake Bay Program recently announced that they were seeking proposals for the 2003 Chesapeake Bay Small Watershed Grants Program.

The program, funded by the EPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies, as well as private corporations and foundations, provides funding that ranges from a few thousand dollars to $50,000 to support community-based projects ranging from habitat restoration to water quality monitoring to community outreach. ...

DNR confirms snakeheads gone from Crofton pond

Remember the snakehead?

Maryland environmental officials have confirmed that the alien carnivorous fish that became a sensation this summer when it was found reproducing in a Crofton pond is indeed a memory.

Department of Natural Resources biologists visited the 4-acre pond Nov. 20 to check for any sign that the Asian predators survived after a fish poison was applied in September in an intensive effort to eradicate them.

After waiting until the weather chilled and the thick plant life in the pond died, the scientists used an electric shock method to try to stun any fish in the pond and make them float to the surface. ...

Congress rejects proposals to transfer Sea Grant, Smithsonian research

Plans by the Bush administration to transfer some research programs to the National Science Foundation — a change that would have affected some Bay-related research — have been rejected by Congress and a scientific study panel.

In its proposed 2003 budget, the administration called for removing the 35-year-old Sea Grant program from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and transferring it to the NSF, which is called “one of the true centers of excellence” in the government. ...

East Coast to begin phaseout of ocean American shad fishery

Efforts to restore American shad in the Chesapeake Bay may get a boost at the end of December as states along the East Coast begin restricting the catch of the fish in the ocean.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission in 1999 called for a five-year phaseout of coastal shad catches. The phaseout begins at the end of this year when states must implement plans to reduce catches by 40 percent. The ocean fishery must be completely closed at the end of 2004.

Shad spend most of their lives migrating along the coast, but they return to their native rivers to spawn. The ASMFC, a panel representing all East Coast states that develops management plans for migratory species, hopes that ending harvests in the ocean will bolster ongoing efforts to rebuild shad populations in many East Coast rivers. ...

Critics say new EPA rules will harm air quality, Bay

The Bush Administration has announced plans to loosen air pollution control rules to allow industries and power plants to upgrade and expand operations without having to install costly new pollution control devices.

The initiative was immediately criticized by environmentalists and state officials in the Northeast who said it would increase air pollution. A number of states, including Maryland, indicated they would file suit to block the new rules.

EPA Administrator Christie Whitman said in a statement that the changes will “encourage emission reductions” by providing manufacturers, utilities and refinery operators new flexibility when considering operational changes and expansion. ...

Warner names Baxter to elevated VA Bay post

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner has named Russell Baxter to the state’s newly elevated position of interagency Chesapeake Bay Program coordinator. The job, which was formerly part of the Department of Environmental Quality has been moved to the office of the state Secretary of Natural Resources, which oversees all state environmental agencies.

The change makes Baxter, who has previously served on the staff of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, responsible for implementing the state’s Bay Program efforts. ...

PA awards grants to curb wastewater nutrients

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection announced it was awarding $3.37 million in Growing Greener grants to help nine wastewater treatment plants in the watershed reduce nitrogen discharges.

When the upgrades are complete, the plants will reduce nitrogen discharges by about 2 million pounds a year.

The grants, announced Oct. 31, represent the first time that the state has earmarked funds specifically for nitrogen controls at wastewater treatment plants.

The grants will pay up to 80 percent for the design or construction costs of the nutrient reduction portion of wastewater treatment projects. The goal of the program is to reduce nitrogen concentrations in discharges to 8 milligrams per liter of water or less. Plants without nutrient reduction technology typically discharge around 22 mg/l of nitrogen or higher. ...

Maryland announces new nutrient goals

Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening announced plans to slash nitrogen loads from the state by a third from current levels and for reducing phosphorus by 18 percent.

State officials plan to allocate those reductions among the state’s various rivers by the end of the year so citizen-based tributary teams can begin writing nutrient reduction plans in January.

“We must be more aggressive in our efforts to protect the Bay from excess nitrogen and phosphorus discharges,” Glendening said at the Oct. 31 Chesapeake Executive Council meeting. “It is our hope that by 2010, the steps that we have taken today will pay dividends in terms of promoting the growth of Bay grasses, habitat for native species and overall water quality.” ...

Council accepts local government plan

The Executive Council accepted a new Local Government Participation Action Plan that seeks to coordinate Bay restoration activities with the 1,650 local governments in the watershed.

The plan, written by the Bay Program’s Local Government Advisory Committee, sets a number of actions needed to improve communication between local governments and the Bay Program, and to get local governments more involved in restoration efforts.

“Clearly, no strategy, no benchmarks, no schedules established at the federal, regional, or state levels can have any hope of success without the focused, dynamic participation of local governments,” said EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman. “This new Action Plan — a blueprint for strengthening these partnerships — promises significant progress.” ...

Council seeks support from Agriculture Department

The Executive Council signed a resolution urging the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture to make the Chesapeake Bay watershed a priority area for implementing farm programs and for coordinating programs with other federal agencies.

The Farm Bill that was enacted this year has the potential to provide tens of millions of dollars annually to the Bay states for conservation measures — several times the $20 million that had been spent annually in recent years.

In addition, the Bay states recently submitted a proposal to the USDA for a $20 million pilot program to demonstrate innovative nutrient reduction practices within the Bay watershed. ...

Glendening warns Executive Council against ‘bureaucratic stalling’

In an unusually sharp assessment of the Bay Program’s cleanup progress, Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening told his colleagues on the Chesapeake Executive Council that the state-federal partnership was in danger of stalling because of “bureaucratic inaction.”

At the annual meeting of the cleanup effort’s top policymaking body, Glendening said the Bay had shown little real progress since concerns about the Chesapeake started growing in the 1970s, and that “stronger actions” were needed. ...

Related News:

Council seeks support from Agriculture Department

Council accepts local government plan

Virginia voters approve parks bond; local VA, MD measures also pass

Virginia voters by more than a 2-to-1 margin backed a proposal to issue $119 million in bonds to buy new land for parks and natural areas, and upgrade existing state parks.

In addition, voters in four local jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia approved nearly $30 million in new spending to protect farms, purchase parklands, or otherwise preserve open spaces in their local communities.

The Virginia bonds, approved by 69 percent of the voters, will provide $36 million to 10 new natural area preserves and expand eight existing preserves to protect critical habitat. The money will also be used to acquire three new state parks, while increasing the size of 11 existing parks, to meet growing demands for recreational opportunities. ...

Newly elected governors Ehrlich, Rendell reveal environmental policies

At a time when their states are facing big budget deficits even as key — and costly — decisions loom for the Bay cleanup, voters in both Maryland and Pennsylvania elected new governors in November.

Maryland voters chose Robert Ehrlich, their first Republican governor in 36 years, while Pennsylvania voters elected Ed Rendell, a Democrat and the state’s first governor from Philadelphia in almost a century.

Both will automatically become members of the Chesapeake Executive Council which sets policy for the Bay cleanup effort. The council, created in 1983, also includes the governor of Virginia, the EPA administrator, the District of Columbia mayor and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, which represents state legislators. ...

GIS seminar offered for watershed groups

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, along with NASA and its synergy project at Towson University’s Center for Geographic Sciences, are co-sponsoring a free GIS seminar for watershed groups over a 10-state region Dec. 12 at Towson University’s Burkshire Center.

Participants will learn how to access GIS information from their desktop and customize it, free of charge, for their needs.

The workshop staff will describe a variety of free geospatial date, free GIS software and Web-based mapping tools that can be used to support the work of watershed planners. ...

NOAA’s Ray E. Moses receives 2002 Flanigan Award

Ray E. Moses, rear admiral of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, received the 2002 Frances H. Flanigan Award for Environmental Leadership from the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay at the Taste of the Chesapeake gala in October.

Moses, who serves as president of the board of directors of the Elizabeth River Project in Norfolk, VA, received the award for developing a broad partnership of industry, government and citizen interests through his unwavering commitment to the collaborative approach. Under his leadership, the ERP has expanded its membership to 2,000. ...

Analysis puts Bay cleanup tab at $19 million

The cost of achieving the roughly 100 goals outlined in the landmark Chesapeake 2000 agreement could top $19 billion through the end of the decade, according to a new analysis.

Current state and federal funding levels for Bay-related activities would fall about $13 billion short of what’s needed, according to the analysis by the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

“A lot of people ask why hasn’t the Bay been restored when we’ve been working on it for 20 years,” said Ann Swanson, executive director of the commission, an advisory panel that represents the legislatures of the Bay states. ...

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