Bay Journal

April 2003 - Volume 13 - Number 2

Bay officials agree to slash nutrient inputs almost 50% from ’85 levels

Hoping to return the Chesapeake to conditions seen decades ago, senior Bay region officials have agreed to slash nutrient inputs to the Bay nearly 50 percent from their 1985 levels.

If achieved, state and federal officials expect to see dramatic expansions in beds of underwater grasses, much clearer water, fewer algae blooms and a greatly reduced oxygen-depleted “dead zone.”

“It will give us conditions we haven’t seen in the Bay for 40 years,” said Diana Esher, deputy director of the EPA’s Chesapeake Bay Program Office. ...

Scientists say proposed reservoir poses threat to shad’s recovery

The healthiest long-term shad stock in the Bay watershed could be jeopardized if a water intake is built in the Mattaponi River to supply water for a controversial new reservoir, according to a new scientific review.

The Virginia Institute of Marine Science warned of the “potential for significant adverse impacts” posed by the intake, which would supply water to Newport News’ long-planned King William Reservoir.

The scientists said the Mattaponi is the most important shad spawning and nursery area for the York River, which has maintained the Bay’s healthiest—though still depleted—shad population over the decades. As a result, “we do not recommend placement [of the intake] in the Mattaponi River,” they said in a letter to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, which has scheduled a hearing on the issue April 22. ...

Bay officials hope for cleaner air, but prospects are cloudy

For the first time, the Bay Program is counting on air pollution reductions to reduce water pollution.

When state and federal officials agreed to slash nitrogen loads entering the Chesapeake by 110 million pounds a year, they built in an assumption that 8 million pounds would come from air pollution controls. The remaining 102 million pounds was allocated to six states in the watershed and the District of Columbia.

The 8 million figure stems from EPA estimates of Bay benefits if Congress enacts the Bush administration’s Clear Skies Initiative, which would require power plants to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides, a byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, two thirds by 2018, with the bulk of the reductions required by 2008. ...

10 honored for efforts to reduce, eliminate waste at facilities

Cleaning up the Chesapeake is a serious business and the 10 recipients of the 2002 Businesses for the Bay Achievement Awards have shown that they are up to the task.

Businesses for the Bay is a voluntary program that assists businesses, government facilities and other organizations in preventing pollution by reducing or eliminating waste at its source. Since its inception in 1997, members have reported reducing or recycling more than 6 billion pounds of wastes. In turn, these practices have helped them save more than $177 million. ...

Level of headwater states’ participation debated

The three “headwater states” of New York, West Virginia and Delaware have agreed to help control nutrients to clean up the Chesapeake. But does that mean they should become full members in the Bay Program, sharing more of its funds, and also shouldering more responsibilities?

It’s a question regional officials have debated for years, but the issue is getting heightened attention. In the past two years, the governors of all three states signed formal agreements pledging to help clean up the Bay. ...

VA investigates possible role of divers in quarry’s zebra mussels

Virginia environmental officials are investigating how a colony of zebra mussels found its way into the Millbrook Quarry near Haymarket, and whether they were deliberately brought in by divers.

The nuisance mollusks were discovered in September in the quarry, the only place in Virginia where the shellfish species has been found.

Once established in rivers and lakes, the mussels rapidly multiply and kill off marine life. But they also dramatically increase water clarity and visibility, making the environment better for divers. ...

Congress considers bills to wage war against alien species

State and federal efforts to stem the nation’s ongoing invasion by alien species would get a boost from a pair of bills which take aim at species such as the fish-devouring northern snakehead and the wetland-chomping nutria.

The National Aquatic Invasive Species Act of 2003, along with companion legislation to fund research related to exotic species control, cleared a House subcommittee in March. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate.

The bills would strengthen efforts aimed at halting the arrival of new species, and step up efforts to seek and destroy problem species once they arrive and before they can cause extensive damage. The legislation has broad bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. ...

Program to restore estuary habitat gets funding from Congress

Tucked inside a $397 billion spending bill passed by Congress in February was $1 million for a new estuary habitat restoration program.

Like spat on an oyster bar, the funds are seed money that estuary restoration advocates call a “down payment” on the $275 million Congress vowed to spend when it passed the National Estuary Restoration Act in 2000.

While the $1 million will be divided among a handful of estuary restoration projects, advocates are thrilled that the program finally got any funding, given the nation’s growing deficits and other growing demands for federal spending. ...

Loudoun sowing seeds for rural economy, reaping profits

Virginia’s Loudoun County is the nation’s second-fastest growing county, yet officials believe there is room for farming in its future.

Those farms may look different from those in the past. Fields of the future are more likely to sprout grapevines, Christmas trees or fresh vegetables than soybeans or other traditional row crops.

Officials believe that promoting such high-value crops is the key to achieving its goal of maintaining the rural character of the western two-thirds of a county where the population nearly doubled to 170,000 in the past decade, and another 12,000 pour in each year. ...

Economics, not acreage, has greater role in farmland retention

Researchers and farmland protection advocates for years have thought that areas needed a “critical mass” of farmland for agriculture to survive in a region.

Once farm acreage falls below a certain level, critical support services begin to leave, and farmers—faced with increased costs and complaints from new suburban neighbors—are more willing to allow rows of crops to be turned into rows of homes.

That, at least, was the theory.

But a new study that examined Mid-Atlantic farming trends over the past 50 years found there is no magic number that signals agriculture is on its way out of a county. ...

Retired subway cars will sleep with the fishes

It was the final journey for 50 former New York City Redbird subway cars.

Stripped of doors, windows, electrical wiring and chassis, they were sent on a 70-foot voyage to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. There, nearly 14 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach, they arrived at their final destination March 11.

They will now help to create memories for those who fish and scuba dive as part of the Tower Reef, named for its proximity to the Chesapeake Light Tower. Within the next couple of months, schools of fish and a wide variety of other sea creatures will make the cars their home. ...

Corps to tighten restrictions on ariakensis permit

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has determined that it will require more stringent conditions on this summer’s planned deployment of 1 million sterile foreign oysters than are being required by Virginia officials.

While the action by the Corps’ Norfolk District is not expected to delay the project, set to begin in late June or early July, the Corps permit may end the experiment almost a year earlier than the one issued by the Virginia Marine Resources Commission.

The commission in February approved a plan from the Virginia Seafood Council, an industry trade group, to rear 1 million fast-growing, disease-resistant Crassostrea ariakensis oysters in the Bay and its tributaries to determine if they can be economically grown in aquaculture. ...

SRBC expands program to help train, fund streamside cleanup projects

The Susquehanna River Basin Commission recently announced the availability of funding and training for local nonprofit organizations, municipalities and county conservation districts to conduct streamside cleanup projects.

The funding, which can be used for new or existing cleanup projects, is the most recent effort by the commission and PPL Corp. to expand its program to remove litter along waterways in the Susquehanna basin.

The 3-year-old program is now called the Susquehanna River Basin Streamside Cleanup Training Academy and Assistance Program. ...

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