Bay Journal

November 2011 - Volume 21 - Number 8

Bay Program working to improve accuracy of BMP reporting

The Bay Program is struggling to resolve a question that has festered for more than two decades: Just how accurate is its information about the tens of thousands of nutrient reduction efforts claimed to be taking place throughout the 64,000-square-mile watershed?

A growing chorus in the agricultural community strongly contends that farmers are not getting credit for all of the conservation strides they've made. Several recent reports seem to back up that claim.

At the same time, even as some of the best management practices, or BMPs, go uncounted, others contend that the benefits of many nutrient control efforts are overestimated. In some cases, practices are poorly installed or managed. In other cases, buffers and stream bank fences that vanished years ago — sometimes, along with the farms they were on - remain on the books, delivering phantom nutrient reductions to the Bay. ...

Zebra mussels found in Sassafras River

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources recently confirmed the presence of zebra mussels in the lower Sassafras River, a tidal Eastern Shore tributary near the Susquehanna River, where the invasive species was first discovered in Maryland in 2008.

DNR biologists believe that the unusually low levels of salt in Upper Chesapeake Bay waters this summer may have played a role in allowing zebra mussels to expand their distribution to the Sassafras.

Boaters, anglers and other recreational water users who enjoy the lower Susquehanna River can help stop the spread of harmful zebra mussels to other Maryland waters by taking several simple steps. ...

$10.9 million in grants go to projects that help local streams, Bay

Brook trout restoration in West Virginia, oyster shell recycling in Maryland and efforts to identify high-quality streams that may be affected by natural gas drilling or other development in Pennsylvania were among 55 projects throughout the Bay watershed that recently received $10.9 million in grants aimed at helping to protect local waters and, ultimately, the Bay.

The funding was awarded through the Small Watershed Grants Program and the Innovative Nutrient and Sediment Reduction Grants Program. Both are part of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation's Chesapeake Bay Stewardship Fund. ...

Introduction project’s goal is to restore eels to river upstream of Conowingo Dam

On a sun-drenched July morning, a pair of biologists scanned a 60-foot expanse of broken rock along the Susquehanna River, just below the Conowingo Dam, looking for eels about the size of a pencil.

Normally, the biologists would spot the eels crawling up the rocks along a small stream of water from a hose. But over the weekend, a pump had shut down, and the flow was barely a trickle.

"We have a couple of them climbing on the rocks," said Ian Park, a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, pointing to the slithering eels about 20 feet away.

VMRC to continue ban on winter dredging for crabs

The Virginia Marine Resources Commission voted to continue the ban on the winter dredging for crabs, for the fourth straight year.

The action is unpopular with many crabbers in the state, but was considered important by fishery managers because the fishery largely catches pregnant female crabs, which have been the target of Baywide restoration efforts.

The state first banned the practice in 2008 as part of a suite of actions by both Virginia and Maryland to slash the harvests of female crabs in order to increase reproduction. ...

Forest Service urged to uphold hydrofracking ban

A coalition of conservation groups from around the Bay watershed is urging the U.S. Forest Service to stick to the prohibition on horizontal drilling for natural gas that it proposed in its draft management plan for the George Washington National Forest.

Their letter - along with a campaign that generated more than 50,000 comments from individuals - sought to bolster the proposed restrictions on drilling in the Marcellus Shale, which have drawn fire from members of Congress and the administration of Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. ...

MD juvenile striped bass numbers 4th highest on record

Juvenile striped bass production in Maryland's portion of the Chesapeake this year soared to the fourth highest number on record, providing good news for the Bay's most popular recreational fish - and the anglers who pursue them.

Concern had been growing about the future of the stock after three consecutive years of below-average production in Maryland, but this year's index of 34.6 fish per seine net haul was the best haul since 2001. That was almost three times the long-term average of 11.9. In 2001 the average was 50.75 juvenile striped bass per net. The highest index in the 58-year-old survey was 59.39 in 1996. ...

EPA to set rules for treating wastewater from natural gas drilling

EPA to set rules for treating wastewater from natural gas drilling

The EPA announced in October that it plans to develop regulations to guide the treatment of wastewater created by shale gas production, which has grown from a negligible amount to 15 percent of the nation's natural gas production in the last five years.

The announcement is in response to growing concerns about the practice of hydraulic fracturing to access that gas. The practice uses huge amounts of water and a variety of chemicals pumped into deep wells to break up rock formations to access natural gas. ...

Study launched to find solution for sediment behind Conowingo

Tropical Storm Lee scoured an estimated 4 million tons of sediment that had been stored behind Conowingo Dam and flushed it down the Susquehanna River and into the Bay during September flooding.

But there's more than 130 million tons of sand, clay and mud still stockpiled behind the 100-foot-high structure, waiting for the next big storm to send more of it - along with the nutrients and chemical contaminants it holds - into the Bay.

Figuring out what to do with the sediment buildup in the Conowingo Reservoir has perplexed scientists and managers for the last two decades. The dam traps more than half of the 3 million tons of sediment and about one-third of the 3.5 million pounds of phosphorus that reach it each year. If left alone, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates the reservoir will reach its storage capacity in 15–20 years. ...

PA dirt & gravel program on the road to stream-friendly corridors

As the Bradford County Conservation District Manager, Mike Lovegreen has the distinction of conducting a significant portion of his work along the largest county network of dirt and gravel roads in Pennsylvania.

During one day on the job, Lovegreen's team noticed an excessive amount of water collecting in a roadside ditch, a situation they knew would likely send a large volume of sediment to a nearby stream. To remedy the problem, the district worked with the municipality that owned the road and an adjacent landowner to explore solutions that might use funding from the state's Dirt and Gravel Road Maintenance Program. ...

Impact fee sought for Marcellus drilling in PA

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett is calling for an impact fee on Marcellus Shale drilling in the state, with 75 percent going to local governments and 25 percent to state agencies to offset added costs stemming from natural gas development.

The fee was among a number of recommendations put forth by the governor in response to an advisory committee report issued during the summer. He also proposed stronger regulatory standards and incentives to promote vehicles that run on natural gas. ...

VA senators push legislation to make Fort Monroe a national park

Virginia's senators are backing legislation that would make Virginia's Fort Monroe the newest member of the National Park system in the Chesapeake Bay region.

A Senate Energy and Natural Resources panel on Oct. 20 heard testimony on legislation introduced by Sens. Jim Webb and Mark Warner that calls for turning the fort into a national historic park and charging the National Park Service with preserving its historic and natural resources.

"Fort Monroe has a unique and important history stretching back over 400 years," Warner said at the hearing, noting that it was the location of fortifications at Old Point Comfort built by Jamestown settlers in 1609. ...

Groups piping up about threat of many small drains to water quality

Some solutions for restoring the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers arrive by way of high-tech, scientific processes. Others begin by pulling on boots.

Over the last 18 months, the Center for Watershed Protection studied several urban Maryland streams to investigate pollution flowing into them from storm drains.

The center worked with local water management agencies and nonprofit watershed groups to look closely at Sligo Creek in Montgomery County, and Western Run, Moores Branch, and a small part of the Jones Falls in Baltimore City and Baltimore County. ...

Forum participants reach out, re-energize efforts for Bay, rivers

One of the things I appreciate about the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay is its longstanding commitment to bringing together diverse coalitions of committed people, communities, organizations, businesses and governments to protect the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers.

One of the signature events that the Alliance hosts with its partners each year is the Chesapeake Watershed Forum, a three-day conference that brings together committed and passionate people from local watershed organizations and governments across the watershed to learn the latest restoration science and direction; network with other groups facing similar challenges; and be inspired to continue the day-to-day work of preserving and restoring local rivers. These local activists are truly at the heart of efforts to bring about a healthier Bay and watershed. ...

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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