A few years ago a movie came out titled “Sleeping with the Enemy.” It portrayed, in the eyes of the public, a great marriage based on commitment and trust, but behind closed doors the marriage was just the opposite. The marriage was based on lies and abuse. Had it not been dissolved, it would have eventually led to the death of the other partner.

Two years ago this March, a group of sincere, hard-working Christian men and women took on a job that was for all purposes and intentions for the good of Tangier Island, to preserve its heritage and way of life. We joined forces with scientists, and environmentalists (Chesapeake Bay Foundation), believing that if we could work together to find some middle ground, all of us could survive and that Tangier and its way of life would always be around.

We trusted the partnership that we developed with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. We heard them state many times that they, too, wanted the working waterman to always be a part of the Chesapeake Bay. We had our differences but we were up-front with them and we trusted their words and worked along side them to make changes that would benefit both of us.

Needless to say, you can imagine our anger and disappointment when we discovered that their intentions and purposes for the working waterman had greatly changed. They have been and are continuing to push for a continuation on the freeze, transfer and upgrade of licenses. They also promote a reduction in both the peeler and hard crab pot. We, and many water communities, have young school boys, young men, and even older married men with families to support; who cannot work on the water today because of this freeze.

Our way of life as we know it will eventually come to an end. Does it bother anyone that an entire workforce, a way of life that has been around since before America was a nation, could be ended forever?

Why is it that every time the “habitat” or “blue crab” of the Chesapeake Bay is in trouble that the working waterman must be the culprit. What happened to those popular words of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation like “watershed,” “pollution,”or “run-off?” Or, can’t the people responsible for these be shoved around as easily as the Chesapeake Bay waterman?

By mistake, we slept with the enemy. We were deceived and our trust was abused. If we don’t make a stand, we will lose what we treasure and love the most.

I do not regret being a part of those men and women who wanted to make things better, who wanted to preserve our heritage. As Christians, we will continue to do these things. We often feel as the writer of Corinthians must have when he said, “We are hard-pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; persecuted but not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed.” For we know that our future, and the future of our children lies in the hands of God.

Carlene McMann Shores
Wife & mother to watermen
Tangier, VA

An article about the relationship between the CBF and Tangier watermen, “Tangier watermen see Bay in new light” appeared in the July-August 1999 Bay Journal.

CBF sorry for breakdown in communication

On behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, I would like to apologize to the men and women of Families Actively Involved in Improving Tangier’s Heritage (FAIITH). Over the past two years we have worked at building trust with the group, based largely on open communications. We failed to live up to their expectations when, during Virginia’s process of reviewing crab fishery regulations, we reiterated a position that we have held for some time without discussing the issues with them. To us this seemed like a small thing. Clearly to them, it was not. They expected us to let them know of positions we were taking, whether we had taken them in the past or not. A strong working relationship must be based on open, two-way communication, and we are sorry for our part in the breakdown in communication.

The watermen of Tangier, like watermen in many parts of the Bay, feel beleaguered. Many of the species they fish for are stressed. They face regulations. They feel blamed.

They see us as a part of the opposition force. Although we understand that feeling, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is committed to working with all of the Bay’s watermen for effective fisheries management. Furthermore, we believe that our broader efforts to improve water quality, such as reducing pollution from animal waste runoff and protecting wetlands and other important habitats, will ultimately help to provide more bountiful fisheries for the Bay’s watermen. Our efforts on these important issues are driven in large measure by our desire to see communities like Tangier prosper from a restored and vibrant Chesapeake Bay.

We are committed to doing all we can to improve communication with our colleagues in the FAIITH group, and to rebuilding the ties that the CBF and the island’s watermen have enjoyed and benefited from in the past.

I would like to reiterate something that we have stated repeatedly in the past, and that we absolutely believe: Our vision of a healthy, restored Bay includes working watermen and thriving, watermen’s communities. It is a part of the Bay’s heritage and must be a part of its future.

Michael F. Hirshfield
Vice President, Resource Protection
Chesapeake Bay Foundation

From Bayou to Bay

I am the outreach coordinator for coastal restoration efforts in Louisiana working for the Coastal Wetlands Planning, Protection and Restoration Act (CWPPRA). I receive the Bay Journal and have noted that many of the issues in your region are similar to ones in southern Louisiana, including nutria.

The Mississippi River Delta and the Chenier Plain are extremely valuable pieces of landscape. During the 20th century, land loss rates approached 25 square miles a year with the greatest losses found in an area within the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program. Louisiana has 40 percent of all vegetated coastal wetlands in the contiguous United States yet is experiencing 80 percent of the nation’s coastal wetlands loss.

The CWPPRA, passed in 1990, provides a means for planning and constructing coastal restoration projects. To date, 80 projects will create, restore or protect more than 69,900 acres of wetlands. CWPPRA engineers rely on four basic techniques:

  • Vegetative: Vegetative plantings replace plant life lost through water ponding, erosion and saltwater intrusion.

  • Structural: Natural and man-made materials protect existing wetlands subject to erosion.

  • Sedimentary: River diversions or dredged sediments mimic the natural process of accretion (wetland building).

  • Hydrologic: Control structures (such as plugs, weirs, etc.) regulate the amount of water flowing into or out of wetlands, returning water flows to more natural patterns.

A CWPPRA project that uses two of these restoration techniques is the Bayou LaBranche Marsh Creation Project. The Bayou LaBranche area is an important marsh complex on the south shore of Lake Ponchartrain west of New Orleans. This expanse of intermediate and brackish marshes provides important nursery habitat for fish and shellfish in the lake. The area has been deteriorating for years, and today much of what were once vital wetlands has been turned into open water.

The project consisted of confining about 500 acres of the area with retention dikes. Engineers then used a cutterhead dredge to pump about 2.5 million cubic yards of sediment onto the site from the bottom of Lake Ponchartrain. The dredged material provided substrate for marsh vegetation, creating 254 acres of new marsh and nourishing 87 existing acres. By the end of the 20-year project life, about 296 acres of marsh should remain in the project area. As with all CWPPRA projects, the area will be monitored for 20 years. This project cost $2.5 million and included seeding the area with marsh plants.

For information, visit the CWPPRA web site located at www.Lacoast.gov.

Jay Gamble
PM-C, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Striped bass & the Bay

I’m a subscriber who appreciates your in-depth articles, especially on fishery issues in the Chesapeake Bay. As a former member of the River Herring and American shad project of the Estuarine Fisheries Group of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, I have ties to fisheries of the Chesapeake Bay.

I would like to point out a questionable statement in “Striped bass reproduction up in Maryland, down in Virginia” (Bay Journal, November 1999). The article states that “90 percent of the coastal population spawns in the Bay.” Whoa! The Bay, with its many river systems, is the dominant producer of striped bass, but it’s not that dominant. The Hudson River stock is a substantial portion of the coastal assemblage, and the Delaware River stock was officially declared to be restored last year by the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission.

I’m a member of the ASMFC Striped Bass Stock Assessment Subcommittee. Our chair, Gary Shepherd of the National Marine Fisheries Service, recently developed an estimate of the composition of the mixed coastal assemblage. The estimate comes to 10 percent Delaware River stock, 23 percent Hudson River stock and 67 percent Chesapeake Bay stock.

Desmond M. Kahn, Ph.D
Environmental Scientist IV
Delaware Division of Fish & Wildlife

The gallant Galatea

I was surprised and very pleased to see the cutter that I built on the December cover of the Bay Journal.

After Galatea’s launching in March 1973, our family sailed on her for 25 years.

Last year, we gave her to the Atlantic Challenge Foundation, which helps to preserve the building of wooden vessels the world over. Galatea was a joy in our life and now she is in Maine helping others.

The photo shows her sailing on the St. Mary’s River in front of our home during the 350th celebration of the founding of Maryland. Captain and crew are in period costume.

Peter E. Egeli

Reduce use of fossil fuels — support Pallone Bill

I have been reading reports of the anticipated advantages of the deregulation of the electricity industry with grave dismay.

The immediate result is that the industry has abandoned its subsidies of energy-saving devices for homeowners. As electricity generation is currently the largest single source of air pollutants linked to smog, respiratory illness, mercury contamination, acid rain and global warming, deregulation is a disaster.

It is, therefore, disturbing to discover that Rep. Robert Ehrlich of Maryland voted in favor of Congress’ Barton Bill to deregulate the industry.

The bill will encourage the use of fossil fuels over alternative power sources that avoid health threats to humans and our life support system. Dependence on fossil fuels to generate the majority of electricity makes us vulnerable to fluctuating prices and interruptions to the fuel supply, whereas with greater investment in wind and solar power, we are independent of imported fossil fuels.

As the Barton Bill is taken up by the House Commerce Committee, I urge Reps. Wayne Gilchrest, Steny Hoyer and others in Congress to support the Pallone Bill, H.R. 2569, which will protect human health and the environment while ensuring lower prices and robust competition at the same time.

Anne Pearson|
Alliance for Sustainable Communities