Bay Journal

July-August 2006 - Volume 16 - Number 5

Groups advocate tougher stormwater permits in region

For years, Maryland’s Montgomery County has been widely considered to have one of the best stormwater management and stream protection programs in the nation.

Unlike most communities, it has a fee to ensure that thousands of stormwater control devices are maintained. It has a long track record in monitoring the health of — and restoring—its streams, along with a host of other initiatives.

“Montgomery County has a stream restoration program. It has done a fine job of detailing the status of its waterways. Its biological monitoring is first-rate,” said Bruce Gilmore, a consultant working for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. ...

Shad runs down around Bay; good egg production aids stocking efforts

Shad runs were weak for a second straight year in most Bay tributaries this spring, with shad runs on Virginia rivers hitting their lowest levels since 1998. Meanwhile, migrations on the Susquehanna continued their five-year slide.

Scientists said the poor spawning runs by the migratory fish were likely due to factors in the ocean, noting that other rivers along the East Coast also saw weaker-than-normal runs.

Biologists expect runs to eventually rebound on most rivers, but they have deep concerns about the Susquehanna—historically the largest East Coast spawning area for shad—where the spawning run has dwindled by more than two-thirds since 2001, and many worry the downward spiral could continue. ...

Hungry rays thwart effort to restore oysters in Piankatank

Cow-nosed rays gobbled up most of the 775,000 oysters in an artificial reef days after they were planted in the Piankatank River in late May to help revive the Chesapeake Bay’s declining shellfish population.

The rays ate about 90 percent of the oysters after the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy placed the shellfish on a man-made reef in the Piankatank, the foundation’s Chuck Epes said.

Environmentalists were shocked by the loss, which was discovered by divers. ...

Supreme Court affirms wetlands protections on narrow vote

The Supreme Court ruled in June that there are limits to the federal government’s authority to regulate wetlands under the Clean Water Act. But in a fractured decision, the court failed to agree on the extent of those limits.

The decision, in which five justices agreed that the Corps of Engineers exceeded its authority in blocking construction on two Michigan wetlands miles from a navigable waterway, leaves it unclear how closely a wetland must be tied to a “navigable water” to be protected by the federal government. ...

United effort to restore fish habitat could bring in new funding

A new plan to restore the United States’ declining fisheries and fish habitat could bring new resources to Chesapeake Bay restoration efforts, including efforts to restore brook trout habitat in tributaries to the Bay. But, some river experts worry that a bold plan to increase restoration funding could be like an age-old fish story—the big one that got away.

A coalition of state and federal government officials, conservation organizations, and fish and tackle businesses such as Bass Pro Shops have jointly developed a National Fish Habitat Action Plan that would by 2010 assess the condition of all marine and freshwater fish habitats in the nation and identify “priority habitats” for protection and restoration. ...

Largest aquaculture test with nonnative oysters gets under way in Bay

Federal officials in June gave the go-ahead for the largest aquaculture experiment yet conducted with sterile nonnative oysters in the Bay.

The Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit June 23 allowing the Virginia Seafood Council to distribute 1.3 million oysters among 13 growers around Virginia’s portion of the Bay after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped its objections to the project.

It is the latest in a series of projects by the council exploring the aquaculture potential for sterile Crassostrea ariakensis. A main goal of this year’s project was to determine whether oysters placed in the water in late spring or early summer would reach market size by fall. ...

Golf courses working to become more friendly for area’s birdies, eagles

The Forest Greens Golf Course proclaims on its website: “A Virginia Department of Conservation Environmentally Friendly Golf Facility.”

This kind of notice is becoming more common for golf courses in the Bay region as managers for one of the United State’s favorite sports see the benefits of reducing applications of fertilizers and pesticides, using less water, and naturalizing fairway borders with native plants.

The Forest Greens course, a 351-acre public facility in Prince William County, follows nutrient management guidelines developed by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation. The fact that the fairways are less glowing than the emerald green carpets seen on the Masters Tour hasn’t discouraged golfers. “It works for us,” said Forest Greens superintendent Jeff Van Fleet, whose course clocks about 50,000 rounds annually. ...

Release of environmental review of C. ariakensis deployment delayed

State and federal officials have agreed to extend the timeline for the release of a study examining the potential for introducing a nonnative oyster into the Chesapeake.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the states of Maryland and Virginia in June announced that they have set May 2007 as the latest target to release a draft Environmental Impact Statement for public review.

The states originally proposed an introduction in the summer of 2003, signaling a desire to complete an environmental review examining the risks and benefits of such an introduction, and various alternatives, within a year. But the completion data has repeatedly been pushed back because of a lack of sufficient information about the nonnative oyster, Crassostrea ariakensis, which had been poorly studied. ...

Demise of eels may have doomed Susquehanna mussels, hurt Bay

When dams went up on the Susquehanna nearly a century ago, their impact may have reached far beyond the migratory fish whose movements were blocked.

Recent studies by the U.S. Geological Survey suggest the structures may have also affected the reproduction of a normally abundant species of freshwater mussels—often located far upstream of the dam. The loss of those mussels, and their water-filtering capability, might be affecting water quality both in the river, and the Bay.

“It has potentially enormous significance to the health of the Bay and the river system if this really turns out to be the way I think it is,” said William Lellis, who heads the USGS Northern Appalachian Research Lab in Wellsboro, PA. ...

Without a Passage, Eels future May Be Dammed

They had been on the move for more than a year, covering more than 1,000 miles since being hatched in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. But for all their swimming ability, the eels, some as little as 4 inches long, just couldn’t climb a 100-foot dam.

 

“Forty-three percent of the habitat in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is on the other side of this,” said Steve Minkkinen, head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maryland Fisheries Office, motioning to Conowingo Dam that towered behind him. “And no eels are getting over this.” ...

 

Chincoteague Blueberry Festival, July 23, 2017

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