Bay Journal

April 2010 - Volume 20 - Number 2

Oyster poachers now more likely to end up in hot water as police, accountability increase

Robert Blackwell can see the cops are coming as he pulls up his dredge, filled with oysters from the bottom of the St. Mary's River. Blackwell and his son, Wayne, finish culling their catch as the boat comes closer.

Maryland Department of Natural Resources Cpl. Catherine Peck waits until her boat is at a good stopping place, then greets the men like they're old friends. She spot-checks the half-dozen bushels of oysters the men have collected, does a quick mental note of safety procedures, then tells the men to have a good day. All in all, it's a far more pleasant experience than most people have when they get pulled over. And most watermen like it that way. ...

Treasured perspectives spur drive to save landscapes on a large scale

Joe McCauley's white government truck rolled out of a pine forest, across a field and to the edge of a cliff overlooking the Rappahannock River.

 

A bald eagle flew overhead. "This," McCauley said, "is bald eagle central." Not long ago, 145 bald eagles were counted along Cat Point Creek, just a couple miles downstream.

 

The Rappahannock was smooth as glass. A mile away, its opposite bank was buffered by hundreds of acres of tidal marshes. Sweeping views to the east and west revealed only the slightest hint of development. ...

 

EPA to study impact of fracking on human health, groundwater

The EPA announced in March that it will conduct a comprehensive study of hydraulic fracturing, a practice used to extract natural gas from deep within the ground.

Specifically, the agency will be studying the impact of the process, known as fracking, on drinking water, groundwater and human health. The EPA is allocating $1.9 million from the fiscal year 2010 budget and will be requesting additional funds in 2011.

"The study will be conducted through a transparent, peer-reviewed process, with significant stakeholder output," said Paul Anastas, EPA assistant administrator, in a statement. ...

Habitat Helpers Wanted

Want to help the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed habitats? These organizations are looking for volunteers to help remove invasive exotic species at sites throughout the watershed.

Patapsco Valley State Park

Friends of Patapsco Valley State Park, in Halethorpe, MD, needs volunteers to remove nonnative vines that have killed or broken trees in the area. Contact: Jim Palmer at J.G.Palmer@jhuapl.edu, 410-948-4796, or visit www.dnc.state.md.us/publiclands/central/patapscovolunteer.html. ...

M. Gordon ‘Reds’ Wolman, famed river science expert, dies

M. Gordon "Reds" Wolman, a longtime Johns Hopkins University geography professor and internationally respected expert on river science, died at his home on Feb. 24. He was 85.

Wolman-known as "Reds" to everyone from his students to the highest-ranking Hopkins officials-was both a fixture at the university and in Chesapeake Bay circles. In the 1960s, he developed some of the earliest research on how construction projects were choking streams with sediment and runoff. That work led to major changes in the law and helped Maryland develop some of the strongest water protection laws in the nation. ...

Water groups sue Perdue, farm over failure to properly store waste

Two environmental groups are suing Perdue and one of its contract farms for discharging pollution into a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.

The national Waterkeeper Alliance and the Assateague Coastkeeper filed the lawsuit March 2 in the federal district court of Maryland. The lawsuit alleges that Hudson Farms, a contract grower for Perdue in Berlin, MD, left a pile of waste out in the open, where it ran into a ditch that led straight to a branch of the Pocomoke River, contaminating it and the Chesapeake Bay. ...

Local governments concerned about funding as TMDLs move forward

As with many other local governments in the Bay watershed, budget cuts are rippling through Virginia's Accomack County. About 100 teachers, the economic development director and two people in the planning department will lose their jobs, while the child pregnancy, health and tourism programs each take significant budget hits.

"It just goes on and on and on," said Stephen Mallette as he rattled off the toll taken by tough economic conditions on his county. "It is going to take us a while to get through the shell shock to be able to figure out how we are going to put Humpty Dumpty back together again." ...

Watermen pull 10,500 derelict crab pots from Bay, rivers

Commercial watermen in Virginia and Maryland hauled in unusual catches in February and March. Instead of fish or crabs, they snagged thousands of derelict "ghost pots" that had been lost by watermen and abandoned over time.

More than 450 watermen in Maryland and another 66 in Virginia participated in program, which uses federal blue crab disaster funds from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to pay watermen for their work.

Scientists say as many as a fifth of the crab pots used in the Bay each year are lost because of storms, boat propellers cutting lines between pots and marker buoys, or other events. ...

Maryland considers ‘catch share’ program for blue crab fishery

After years of changing regulations and low commercial blue crab catches, Maryland may be edging toward a new individual quota management structure to stabilize its most valuable Bay fishery.

The possible "catch shares" program would assign individual watermen with a guaranteed portion of each year's harvest.

Under the current system, watermen compete with each other to catch as many crabs as possible, working within a maze of regulations that tell them where they can fish and on what days and during what times. Under a catch shares program, crabbers would be free to fish when and how they choose as long as they do not exceed their quota. ...

Unusually dry weather key to rebound in Chesapeake habitats

Drier-than-normal conditions set the stage for improved water quality and the rebound of key habitats in the Chesapeake Bay last year, according to a new Bay Program report.

The annual "Bay Barometer," which scores the status of the Bay's health and its restoration efforts based on a variety of indicators, said those efforts had achieved 45 percent of their goal for restoring the Bay.

That score was based on 2009 actions and conditions, and represented a 6 percent increase from 2008. ...

EPA accepting comments on runoff guidance

The EPA is accepting comments until April 23 regarding draft guidance it has developed to reduce runoff from federally managed lands within the Bay watershed. The guidance was developed in response to an executive order signed by President Barack Obama last year that promised federal agencies would play a bigger role in the Bay's restoration and that they would lead by example.

Although they only apply to federal lands, EPA officials said the recommendations reflect the "best available science" on ways to reduce runoff and may be useful to states and others developing Bay cleanup strategies. ...

Endangered species status proposed for loggerhead turtle

The loggerhead turtle, the most common sea turtle found in the Chesapeake Bay, is inching closer to gaining "endangered" status.

Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are proposing to elevate the reptile known for its outsized head on the nation's list of endangered animals.

In the Chesapeake Bay, where they are mostly found in Virginia waters, loggerheads have declined nearly 60 percent, said Jack Musick, a professor emeritus at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who has studied loggerheads for more than three decades. ...

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