Bay Journal

April 2011 - Volume 21 - Number 2

Other states look to Pennsylvania to learn from Marcellus Shale errors

Maryland natural resources officials are trying to learn everything they can about drilling in the Marcellus Shale formation before granting any permits, saying they hope to avoid the environmental problems that Pennsylvania has endured.

About a year ago, two companies applied to drill for natural gas in Garrett County, in Maryland's far western corner. That county is one of two in the state that overlay the Marcellus Shale, a gas-rich rock formation about the size of Greece that also stretches across Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia. Already, several companies have leased 100,000 acres of land in Garrett and Allegany counties. ...

Severn River Association, nation’s oldest water group, marks its 100th year

The Chesapeake Bay watershed, home of the nation's largest estuary, can also lay claim to the nation's oldest river organization.

The Severn River Association of Annapolis celebrates its 100th birthday this April.

"The 100th anniversary celebration will be the culmination of my term," said association president Bob Whitcomb. "It's quite an honor."

The Severn River Association protects and restores an 81-square-mile watershed in the middle of Maryland's Western Shore. The river flows into the Bay just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Dozens of freshwater streams feed its upper reach. ...

Dexter Haven, pioneer in Chesapeake oyster research, dies

Professor Emeritus Dexter Haven of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science passed away on March 12. He was 92.

Professor Haven retired from VIMS in 1984 after 34 years of service. He arrived at VIMS (then the Virginia Fisheries Laboratory) in 1949 after earning his bachelor's and master's of science degrees from Rhode Island State College.

Fellow Professor Emeritus Maurice "Mo" Lynch said Haven was a "pioneer in several different areas of marine science in Chesapeake Bay," including seminal early studies of oysters and clams. ...

Study funded by ag group raises questions about Bay model

The statistician George E. P. Box once observed, "All models are wrong, but some are useful." Today, a furious debate is focused on the degree to which two Chesapeake Bay models are wrong - and the degree to which they are useful for decision makers.

It's a debate in which agricultural interests are challenging the soundness of the computer model used by the EPA in developing the total maximum daily load "pollution diet," which requires costly nutrient and sediment reductions throughout the Bay watershed. ...

Legal group to provide free representation in cases affecting the Bay

The Chesapeake Bay has just hired itself a new lawyer - or more accurately, about 40 of them.

The representation comes courtesy of the Chesapeake Legal Alliance, an organization formed about a year ago to help the Bay fight its legal battles against pollution, wetlands violations and habitat destruction.

The Alliance, which is based in Annapolis, is starting with Maryland cases, but plans to expand into Virginia and Pennsylvania as it raises funds and increases its ranks in those states. The idea is for the group to serve as a place for citizens and nonprofit groups to bring complaints large and small to find free representation. ...

MD felt sole ban aimed at halting spread of algae in waterways

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is banning felt soles in Maryland waters to protect and preserve native wildlife and habitats.

"Felt is porous and can remain damp for weeks, keeping harmful microscopic organisms alive and making it virtually impossible to disinfect," said Jonathan McKnight, head of DNR's invasive species team. "After reviewing the science, and spending a year on outreach, public meetings and citizen response, we concluded that the only responsible action was to ban this material to halt the spread of harmful invasive organisms. The 'do nothing' response just would not cut it when the health and beauty of our rivers is at stake." ...

Fishing guide now leading the way for Shenandoah River’s restoration

From the road just outside Harrisonburg, visitors can't see the stream that runs through the line of dairy farms. Its vegetation is unkempt, its bed nearly dry. Even the cows on either side seem indifferent to it.

But Shenandoah Riverkeeper Jeff Kelble knows exactly what's in front of him. He leans in for a closer look and then sadly makes his diagnosis.

"Cattle have destroyed these streams," he said. "I've walked a thousand miles of them. I can tell you they're virtually lifeless." ...

Watershed’s farms have reduced polluted runoff, but not enough

While farmers have reduced nutrient and sediment losses from croplands in the Bay watershed, about 80 percent of those lands continue to have a "high" or "moderate" need for further actions to protect water quality, according to a new report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The report provides a complex look at crop farming in the watershed. On one hand, it suggests that actions taken by farmers have significantly reduced sediment, nitrogen and phosphorus pollution. On the other, it shows that significant hurdles remain. For instance, acres that receive manure for fertilizer have more than twice the nutrient loss than those that receive chemical fertilizer. ...

Congress, farm community say EPA overreached with TMDL

The EPA used heavy-handed tactics with states, flawed models and showed a disregard for costs in developing a new Bay cleanup plan, members of Congress and the agricultural community charged at a recent congressional hearing.

The result, the critics predicted, is that the plan the EPA finalized at the end of December will push many farmers in the watershed out of business.

"It is really impossible to go to any meeting where there are farmers gathered and not hear their fear about Chesapeake Bay regulations," Carl Shaffer, president of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, told a sympathetic House Agriculture subcommittee. ...

Dam breach reopens Kimages Creek to fish in James

Fish in the lower James River got an early present last December when construction equipment gouged away a 200-foot section of an earthen dam that had made tiny Kimages Creek off-limits to migrating fish for most of the last century.

A week before Christmas, the equipment restored tidal exchanges between the creek and the James, clearing the way for what biologists hope will be the return of migratory fish, especially two species of river herring - blueback herring and alewife - whose populations are at near-record lows all along the East Coast. ...

Corbin, the new ‘Bay czar,’ set to move beyond debate to cleanup

When he was recently named the EPA's new "Bay czar," Jeff Corbin acknowledged that some people questioned why he would want the job.

They sent congratulatory notes that said, in effect, "I congratulate you - and I sympathize with you."

After all, the EPA's Bay efforts are under attack like never before. After unveiling what it called a "historic" new cleanup plan in December, the EPA has been sued by the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the U.S. House passed a budget measure to block funding to implement the plan. A recent congressional hearing spent 2.5 hours criticizing the plan, known as a total maximum daily load. ...

Alliance events celebrate International Year of Forests

The United Nations has proclaimed 2011 as the "International Year of Forests" to raise global awareness of the urgent need to conserve forest resources and highlight their importance in everyday life.

In support of this effort, the Alliance, along with our Chesapeake Bay Program partners, are highlighting the good work being done in communities throughout the watershed to benefit trees and providing opportunities for local citizens to get involved.

With its new, online "IYOF Events" calendar,, the Alliance's Forestry for the Bay project offers many resources and ways for people to get involved in this global effort as they celebrate the Bay watershed's forests throughout 2011. ...

MPT celebrates ‘Bay Week’

Maryland Public Television will celebrate its annual "Bay Week," April 1-17, by featuring programing designed to encourage public discussion and action about the Bay and its tributaries.

A score of programs will be broadcast, covering topics ranging from Bay history and ecology to food and volunteerism. Many other public television stations within the vast 64,000-square-mile watershed will also be broadcasting Bay Week programing, so check local listings.

Among the highlights of this year's programing: ...

NRCS teams to help watershed farms protect water quality

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently announced that its Natural Resources Conservation Service will provide accelerated and targeted technical assistance to help farmers and ranchers in the Bay watershed install conservation practices to improve water quality.

Through partnerships with state agencies, conservation districts and nongovernmental organizations, the NRCS will deploy four teams of technical experts in priority areas. These Strategic Watershed Action Teams will help individual agricultural producers plan and implement conservation practices needed to address priority natural resource concerns. ...

Plant more plants to prevent pollution from reaching Bay

Bring out the shovels, and bring on the plants. The Chesapeake Bay Program invites you to celebrate spring this year by adding more plants to lawns, gardens and public spaces throughout the Chesapeake region.

Launched in March, "Plant More Plants" is a public campaign to heighten awareness about the ways in which well-planted yards and gardens can help prevent pollution in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

Plant More Plants makes an appeal for the increased use of native trees, shrubs and perennials, because they slow and filter stormwater runoff that washes pollutants into nearby waters. Native species protect water quality without requiring the use of fertilizers and pesticides that can mingle with stormwater runoff and add to, rather than reduce, pollution problems. ...

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