Last issue, I reported about a recent study that linked watersheds with high levels of impervious surfaces to poor yellow perch reproduction. That study, and others like it increasingly suggest that land disturbance and development may pose the greatest threat to the Bay's aquatic resources, yet it's unclear whether state and local governments are willing to forgo short-term economic gain from development for the long-term benefit of maintaining waterways and the fish, shellfish and other resources that rely on them.
In the latest installment of our Growing Concern series, Tom Horton focuses on a single case study in this ongoing debate, Maryland's Mattawoman Creek. With impervious surfaces covering about 10 percent of its watershed, the highly productive creek is teetering at the threshold at which aquatic resources typically begin showing impacts of development.
Restoring ecosystems is far more difficult — and costly — than losing them if — and that's a big if — they can be restored at all. Fishery managers have shown they can bring back some individual species, such as striped bass and blue crabs, through strict harvest controls. But after a certain point, there is little they, or anyone else, can do to bring back lost resources.
Horton, in writing about the Mattawoman, notes that some recognized as early as the 1970s that what threatened the creek "was no single big insult, but the proverbial death by a thousand cuts, the sheer increase in people and all they do, an equation today's environmental laws still struggle to solve."
This year is the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Bay Program to stem the "historical decline in the living resources" of the Chesapeake, and there's a lot of talk among the state and federal program leaders about writing a new Bay agreement. (It would be the fourth). If they do, it will be curious to see how far they go in addressing the "death by a thousand cuts" which is doing in our streams — and the Bay itself.
Lower cleanup costs?
One of the most anticipated signs of spring for me is looking out the window and seeing the street sweeper going down the road. Each spring, the municipality sends the sweeping truck through, picking up all of the grit put down during the winter to help drivers navigate icy roads.
I look forward to the street sweeper because, as a bicyclist, I know that hitting a pile of grit on a curve is about the same as hitting a bunch of marbles. Of course, sweeping all that stuff up has other benefits, too, such as keeping sediment out of the stream.
This came to mind because, as I was watching the street sweeper go down the road, I was reading the new report from the James River Association about cost-effective stormwater controls. Street sweeping only costs $4.98 per pound of sediment removed whereas a traditional dry detention pond costs $52.86 per pound.
There's been a lot of complaints about the high costs of stormwater controls for municipalities. And to be certain, those costs will be real. But the report (See "New techniques sharply reduce cost of controlling stormwater runoff" on page 6.) shows that when common sense is used, those costs can be reduced dramatically. Further, some of these controls have local benefits beyond cleaning up the Bay. Like keeping cyclists from crashing.
Bulletin Board deadline
Every year, we get — too late — numerous announcements from people who forget that our July-August edition is one of our two combined issues each year. So, we're getting the word out early. Organizations needing volunteers or hosting events from mid-July to mid-September need to submit them to us by June 11. They should be e-mailed to email@example.com.
Ad representative job
We are seeking an experienced part time advertising professional(s) to assist in developing the advertising base for Bay Journal/Bay Journeys and the related websites. Familiarity with our products is a plus. Send your qualifications to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 717-428-2819 for details.