Bay Journal

September 2011 - Volume 21 - Number 6

Poultry Power! Plants turning chicken litter into fuel, fertilizer

Officials in Maryland and Virginia are taking a hard look at turning poultry litter into fuel, both to enhance water quality and to help make the region energy-independent.

Fibrowatt, a Pennsylvania-based company, is in discussions to build plants on Maryland's Eastern Shore and in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley - both areas with a high concentration of poultry farms. The company already has a plant in Minnesota, the first litter-to-energy plant in the nation.

Perdue AgriRecycle, which has a plant in Sussex County, DE, that pelletizes poultry litter and sells it at as an additive to fertilizer, is also mulling the idea of getting into the energy business. The company collects about 10 percent of all the manure produced on the Shore, but it has the capacity for more, according to officials there. ...

Studies aim to put a figure on cost of cleanup, benefits of better Bay

People often use nebulous terms like "priceless" and "national treasure" to describe the Chesapeake, but a new effort is under way to put the cost of cleaning the Bay, and the benefits of doing so, in cold, hard cash.

The EPA has launched a pair of studies. One is aimed at establishing the cost of implementing the Bay's "pollution diet," or total maximum daily load. The other is aimed at establishing the benefits of restoring water quality in the nation's largest estuary.

The efforts stem from repeated criticism of the agency for not doing a cost-benefit study in conjunction with the TMDL - something it was not required to do under the Clean Water Act. Nonetheless, under hostile questioning from several members of Congress during a hearing earlier this year, EPA Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe promised to estimate the cost of the cleanup, as well as its benefits. ...

Policy to conserve female crabs gets credit for rebound in population

The ladies-first management strategy has paid off for the Bay's blue crab population according to a new study, which holds out the possibility that crab numbers may rebound to levels not seen in two decades.

The first stock assessment for blue crabs since 2005 recommended that managers continue conservative management of female crabs with the aim of boosting the Baywide population of adult females to 215 million, as measured in the annual Baywide winter dredge survey.

That's a huge jump over the current interim Bay target of 200 million for all adult crabs. Nonetheless, the assessment said the numbers of female crabs in the Bay routinely exceeded the target of 215 million adult females from 1980 through 1990. Since then, however, it has approached that level only three times: 2010, 1993 and 1991. ...

ASMFC moves toward cut in menhaden harvest

For the first time, fishery managers are poised to limit the amount of Atlantic menhaden that can be caught along the East Coast.

The small oily fish has been the center of a heated dispute for more than a decade, with recreational anglers and environmentalists contending that commercial harvests were leaving too few menhaden - a major source of food for striped bass and other species - for other fish to eat.

Measured by weight, the menhaden fishery is by far the largest in the Chesapeake, with about 85,000 metric tons caught in the Bay last year. ...

Photo camp teaches girls to focus on beauty surrounding

School field trips on the Chesapeake Bay usually focus on science, conservation and history, with the occasional oyster haul and some memorable tumbles through dark wetland muck.

But 16 Baltimore students who journeyed to Smith Island in May were invited to bond with the Chesapeake in a different way: through the lens of a camera.

The National Geographic Photo Camp was a four-day field experience designed to help youth explore and express the world as they see it - in this case, a setting much different from their own. Smith Island is the last inhabited offshore island in Maryland. Both its lifestyle and its shoreline are eroding. ...

MD makes it easier for oyster farmers to get permits

Prospective oyster farmers in Maryland may be able to get their plans out of a mire of red tape and their bivalves into the water more quickly under permitting changes made by state and federal agencies.

Eyeing the success of oyster aquaculture in Virginia, the state has been actively promoting oyster farming in Maryland as an option to traditional wild harvests.

But people interested in getting into the business have found themselves stuck in red tape for up to a year, and sometimes even longer, as they tried to get needed approvals from various state and federal agencies. ...

Anglers learn that fishing in some VA rivers is at their own risk

Want to own your own personal slice of a river that hosts a famed trout fishery? Now is your chance to buy. The River's Edge - a new development along the Jackson River, a mountainous Virginia tributary of the James River and a destination for avid anglers from far beyond the commonwealth - advertises that you can "own a piece of the Jackson."

And if you don't "own a piece" of the river, and nonetheless wade into its waters and cast your fly, you may do so at your own risk. That is what three anglers, fishing this portion of the Jackson River, found out upon receiving a summons alleging a criminal trespass and thereafter being sued privately for an alleged civil trespass. ...

Scientists explore wreck thought to be part of 1812 fleet

Archaeologist Julie Schablitsky normally works on land. For this job, she learned to dive.

Then, in the murky waters of Maryland's Patuxent River, she touched a piece of the nation's past.

Schablitsky, chief archaeologist for the Maryland State Highway Administration, is helping to excavate an early U.S. vessel that fought British forces on the Chesapeake Bay during the War of 1812.

"It's a piece of Maryland history and heritage, a symbol of strength from 200 years ago," Schablitsky said. ...

NRDC seeks ‘threatened’ status for blueback herring, alewife

River herring were so common during colonial times that wagons couldn't cross rivers during spawning runs without crushing them. Today, their numbers are so depleted that an environmental group says they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Saying that river herring populations are a "tiny fraction" of their historic size along the East Coast, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a petition Aug. 1 asking that they be listed as a threatened species under the act. ...

EPA revises nutrient targets, will not ask states to alter strategies

The EPA gave states revised nutrient reduction targets this summer, but said it will not require any additional actions or nutrient reductions at this time beyond those already set forth in strategies the states wrote last fall.

But it's not clear that the new targets, if achieved, will result in water quality that meets standards - an issue that the EPA will revisit in 2017 at the latest.

The agency had warned last fall when it issued its "pollution diet" for the Bay - formally known as a "total maximum daily load" - that the nutrient goals it established would likely change this year based on updated computer modeling. ...

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