It's Thanksgiving month, and we've packed this 36-page issue with a cornucopia of stories that will provide food for thought. Some examples:
- Work began this year on what will be the largest oyster restoration project ever attempted in the Bay. This project in Harris Creek, off the Choptank River, will offer important insights about our ability to bring oysters back. Trying to establish a project large enough to trigger an ecological shift within a given river so the oysters maintain an elevated population level and influence the surrounding water quality and habitats makes sense. But it's a big gamble, as many factors that will determine success are beyond human control. A decade ago, a similar case was made for large-scale underwater grass restoration in the Bay. A number of projects were tried, but most failed.
- We highlight perils facing some unheralded species as Rona Kobell writes about hellbenders, and Lara Lutz writes about bats as part of our effort to feature the more than three dozen species identified in the 2010 federal Chesapeake Bay strategy as "critical living resources" that serve as indicators of the health of priority habitats in the Bay or its watershed. Unfortunately, neither is doing well.
- October marked the 40th anniversary of the passage of the original Clean Water Act, but two stories in this issue show that its age is showing. Both involve suits: a challenge brought by opponents of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load, and a suit by environmental groups against trading provisions of the TMDL. The Clean Water Act contains only a few relatively vague sentences about TMDLs, and it says nothing at all about trading. The act has not been overhauled in 24 years. That's not likely to change soon, so we can probably expect more of these issues to be resolved in court.
- Menhaden continue to be a hot issue around the Bay, as the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission prepares to set the first-ever coastwide catch limits on the fish at a special meeting Dec. 14. This month we feature three perspectives on the topic: Beau Beasley reports on impacts that harvest limits might have on the often-overlooked menhaden bait fishery; Kim Coble of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation writes in our Forum section about the ecological importance of menhaden; and ornithologist Paul Spitzer (filling in for Mike Burke with this month's "on the Wing" column) writes about his observations over the years of common loons in search of "peanut" menhaden in the Bay.
Finally, if this kind of coverage is valuable to you, we encourage you to show your support with a contribution to the Bay Journal Fund. We've been expanding our coverage of issues facing the Chesapeake and its watershed, and launched a sister publication, Bay Journeys, to help people experience Bay history, culture and resources. We have big plans on the table for next year as well. Whether those plans will be realized depends in part on the generous support of readers like you.
We are working on developing our 2013 budget, and your donation will help influence what we can, and cannot, accomplish in the coming year. If you have not yet donated to the Bay Journal Fund in 2012 or would like to make an additional tax-deductible end-of-year donation, please use the envelope inserted in this issue, or the form on page 26
"Past is Prologue" in the October issue of the Bay Journal incorrectly stated that the Office of Coast Survey was an early predecessor of the U.S. Geological Survey. The Coast Survey, in fact, was one of three agencies that united to form the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Bay Journal regrets the error.