Bay Journal

March 2011 - Volume 21 - Number 1

Clean may not always be green where wind power is concerned

Hundreds of people recently gathered at an Annapolis rally to promote offshore wind power, energized for change. A wind "superhero" in a blue and silver costume roamed the crowd with a flowing cape, while a grungy coal-costumed man symbolized the dismal alternative.

The crowd's mood was upbeat and the message was clear: Wind power can transform the world.

But wind power transforms the landscape, too.

As plans for the nation's first offshore wind farms take shape, 21 wind farms churn the air on plateaus and ridge tops of the mid-Atlantic region. More are in the queue. ...

Wind power picking up steam as renewable energy option

While the locations and benefits of windpower are debated, one Pennsylvania company must face the pragmatic challenges of making wind work.

PJM Interconnection is a "regional transmission organization" responsible for managing the flow of electricity through a power grid that serves 51 million people in 13 states and the District of Columbia.

PJM forecasts both the long-term energy needs for the region as well as predicting peaks and lows on a daily and hourly basis. Technicians feed the regional grid with an ever-changing mix of traditional and renewable energy sources, and manage the transmission infrastructure. ...

Website lets Bay residents calculate their nitrogen footprint

Residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed and elsewhere have a new way to estimate how big of a nitrogen footprint their daily life creates.

University of Virginia scientists James Galloway and Allison Leach have created a web-based nitrogen calculator that estimates the amount of the nutrient individuals are responsible for creating, and suggests how they can reduce their impact.

Excess nitrogen has numerous impacts on the environment, especially in coastal systems worldwide, such as the Chesapeake Bay, where the nutrient contributes to algae blooms and the loss of oxygen needed to sustain aquatic life. ...

Tons of poached fish forces MD DNR to close striped bass fishery

Maryland Department of Natural Resources officials are grappling with how to manage the striped bass fishery after seizing more than 12 tons of illegally caught fish in the Chesapeake Bay last month.

On Feb. 1, Natural Resources police confiscated nearly three tons of rockfish near Bloody Point Light, south of Kent Island in the Chesapeake Bay. The fish were in gill nets anchored to the bottom of the Bay - a technique that was banned in 1985. Gill nets that drift are legal during a season, Jan. 1 to Feb. 28, provided that the waterman who set them is within two miles of his net. ...

Chickahominy to test partnership’s ability to preserve large landscapes

On some summer weekends, Keith Wynn and his family will take a break from water skiing and climb a small bluff that overlooks the confluence of the Chickahominy River and Morris Creek.

"We just kind of recreate what our forefathers saw when John Smith first came down the river," said Wynn, a member of the Chickahominy Tribe. "It is a beautiful landscape there, just the views. But imagine standing on the bluffs and actually seeing that happen."

Much of the view of expansive tidal marshes seems little changed since the first encounter between Smith and the Chickahominy in 1607. Parts are so remote, Wynn quipped, that it "almost gets a Jurassic look to it." ...

VA, MD working to reduce hurdles to oyster aquaculture

Maryland, Virginia and the federal government are taking steps to expand aquaculture in the Chesapeake Bay, a move that could surprise some coastal residents who may not be used to living next to shellfish farms.

Virginia's Senate recently passed a law protecting aquaculture under the Right to Farm Act and prohibiting local zoning officials from interfering in permitting decisions. The law also allows aquaculture in any place that is zoned for agriculture and already has a pier. But the bill stalled in the House of Delegates. It is expected to come back next year after further study. ...

Weather cited for better-than-average spatfalls in MD, VA

Maryland last year saw the biggest baby oyster boom -or spatfall - in its portion of the Bay in more than a decade, providing a sliver of good news for the critical Chesapeake shellfish whose overall population hovers near historic lows.

Most Virginia rivers also reported better-than-average spatfalls.

But several scientists cautioned that good spat production - though good news - does not necessarily result in a greater number of adults in the future. "You have got to have the spat to have any chance," said Jim Wesson, who oversees oyster restoration programs for the Virginia Marine Resources Commission. But so many small oysters fall victim to predators or succumb to disease, he said, it's difficult to predict how many will be left after two or three years. "You can only read so much into it each year. You have to watch and see what happens." ...

Researchers discover viruses responsible for peeler crab deaths

For decades, many who tended to soft crabs around the Chesapeake Bay expected about a quarter of their animals to die before they could be sold.

Some assumed the mortality was the result of the stressful shedding process. Others figured it was because the animals were in close proximity to each other in the tanks during a time of physical weakness - a phenomenon seen in shrimp and other aquaculture operations. And still others thought that something in the enclosed system's water made the crabs sick. ...

Report promotes outdoor recreation, helping rural areas through tourism

The Obama administration released a sweeping vision in February for protecting the nation's open spaces and promoting recreation while improving rural economies.

The America's Great Outdoors report, which stemmed from more than 50 public meetings and 105,000 comments received last year, calls for new and improved urban parks; protecting working lands such as ranches, farms and forests; restoring major ecological systems; and a new national system of blueways and water trails. ...

Chesapeake cleanup funding at risk in federal budget battle

The Obama administration has proposed increases for many Chesapeake Bay programs in its 2012 budget, but the funding's fate is uncertain as Republicans in Congress are intent on slashing federal spending.

Although the administration's proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 makes numerous cuts in environmental programs, it signaled that the Bay is still one of its priorities.

For instance, it called for spending $67 million for the EPA's Bay Program Office, or $17 million more than 2010 and $4 million more than the administration's request for the current year. That increase was proposed even as the administration called for cuts in other EPA programs, including a reduction in the state Clean Water Revolving Loan Fund to $1.55 billion, and cutting Great Lakes restoration efforts by $125 million, or 25 percent. ...

ChesapeakeStat allows public to track progress of Bay cleanup efforts

The Bay Program has launched a new feature on its ChesapeakeStat website to allow the public to track and verify nutrient reduction progress toward Bay cleanup goals.

The EPA on Dec. 29 established a Total Maximum Daily Load for for each state and major tributary in the Chesapeake that set the nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment reductions needed to clean up Bay water. Under the TMDL, 60 percent of the reductions are needed by 2017, and the rest must be in place by 2025.

The new Bay Tracking and Accounting system, or BayTAS, is intended to let people see if pollution reduction efforts are on track. The website contains the 2009 baseline levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment, based on computer modeling, which are displayed geographically on maps for all jurisdictions and waterways. ...

Waterfront partnership launches Baltimore harbor cleanup

By almost any measure, Baltimore's Inner Harbor is one of the most polluted water bodies in the Chesapeake Bay -- a repository for frequent sewage spills as well as stormwater laden with contaminants and metals and trash flowing in from points upstream. Its watershed is packed with people and industrial sites; its cleanup has been largely overlooked; and its prospects for anything resembling a recovery slim are slim at best.

But change is in the air for the harbor, which has been the center for much of Baltimore's redevelopment.

Chesapeake’s oyster reefs have taken a shellacking

Suited in yellow rain gear, with hoods pulled up for protection against a stiff fall breeze, a small group of biologists prepared to dig into a mound of oysters piled onto clean, white tables.

Fortunately, they weren't looking for dinner. The oysters were small, mostly dead, and were often coated in black, sulfuric-smelling muck.

The biologists sorted and measured oysters one by one, chanting their findings to a clipboard-wielding recorder who listed every detail.

"Old box, 43." (A dead oyster, 43 millimeters long.) ...

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