Bay Journal

January 2012 - Volume 21 - Number 10

States submit draft strategies to clean water

A year after the EPA put the Bay on a "pollution diet," states are providing new details about how they - and local governments - will curb the nutrient binge that transformed the Bay's once-clear water into a murky soup over the last 50 years.

States in mid-December began turning in first drafts of new Phase II Watershed Implementation Plans - or WIPS - that will guide cleanup efforts through 2017 and ultimately affect nearly all of the 16-million-plus residents of the Bay watershed, from how much they pay in sewage bills and stormwater fees to how farmers apply manure and fertilizer to their fields. 

American eels are mostly gone in Great Lakes

The American eel had been good to John Rorabeck. For decades, he guided his workboat along the rivers and lakes of Ontario, catching more than 400 eels a day with little difficulty. He sold everything he caught - and for good prices.


But one day in 1989, that began to change. Rorabeck went to his friend John Casselman, a longtime biology professor at Queen's University who had studied eels most of his career. There's a problem, Rorabeck told him. And it could soon affect the 100 eel fishermen in the region as well as the species. ...


VA’s South River runs free for first time in more than a century

While a pair of heavy-duty earth movers lumbered back and forth across the rocky stream bed of the South River like busy, destructive beavers, a hydraulic hammer chipped away at the old Rife-Loth Dam's moss-covered limestone walls. It was a symphony of metal scraping stone, only occasionally interrupted when the giant hammer stopped pulsing and the sound of rushing waters spilling over the old dam rose above the din.


The century-old dam, located in the middle of Waynesboro, VA, was finally coming down - and rising in its stead was the promise of new life for Virginia's South River. ...


New policies contribute to VA’s surge in land conservation easements

In 1958, Andrew Packett's parents bought a farm on the Northern Neck of Virginia. The decision defined the rest of their lives, and their son's life, too.

Now a father and grandfather himself, Packett still lives on the 437-acre farm along the Rappahannock River where the grain grows, minnows flash in the water and geese fly overhead.

"It's not just a place," Packet said. "It's who we are."

The family's ties to the land inspired them to protect it. In 2008, Packett worked with the Virginia Outdoors Foundation to create a permanent conservation easement for the property. ...


Embry Dam’s removal proves to be boon for smaller eels

Over the last few years, biologists monitoring small streams in Shenandoah National Park have observed something that is happening almost nowhere else - the number of eels is steadily growing.

Most places along the East Coast - including the Chesapeake Bay - have had declining numbers of American eels over the last several decades.

Plan to make Baltimore Harbor swimmable, fishable by 2020 unveiled

Business leaders, neighborhood activists and schoolchildren recently joined Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in unveiling a plan to clean up Baltimore's Inner Harbor.

The plan calls for major investments in sewage pipes, so that the harbor isn't the victim of more nasty spills that deposit millions of gallons of sewage into the streams leading to it. It also calls for more nets to catch trash, a greater investment in neighborhoods and more infrastructure to soften the blow from stormwater laden with pollutants every time it rains. 


Sea level along Chesapeake rising faster than efforts to mitigate it

Imagine living in a neighborhood where people check the tide gauges to figure out where they should park their cars. A place where front yards sprout wetland plants and smell like marsh grass, where city leaders debate spending millions of dollars to raise yet another street, and where prospective homeowners consult computerized flood maps to determine if it's safe to buy a house.


It may sound like science fiction, but it's the brutal reality in Norfolk and many neighborhoods in the half-dozen other cities that make up the Hampton Roads area. The ground in these areas near where the Chesapeake meets the ocean is slowly subsiding. That, coupled with sea-level rise, is bringing record flooding and destruction to these coastal neighborhoods. The flooding is happening faster than many ever imagined, and every solution to fix it is expensive. Plus, the problem is going to get worse over the next several decades, as it becomes clear that none of today's fixes will be permanent. ...


Waterkeeper attorneys join consumer group, Food & Water Watch

Two key players in the Chesapeake Bay's Riverkeeper movement have left the organization to start a legal advocacy project that will focus on industrial agriculture and natural gas drilling. Attorneys Scott Edwards and Michelle Merkel have joined Food and Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer organization with offices around the country and in Belgium. Within the organization, they are setting up Food and Water Justice, which will add a legal component to their grassroots campaigns.


Economist asks: We are growing, but are we more prosperous?

Imagine a thrillingly powerful sports car whose speedometer dominates the dash, obscuring gauges that warn of fuel guzzling, overheating, needed maintenance and pollution. Not to worry! If you run into any problems, just keep pushing on the accelerator, the car's designer says.


It's not really a sports car, of course. It's the economy - and the population increase that goes hand in hand with it - that has grown large enough to disrupt nature on scales from global climate change to dead zones in Chesapeake Bay and the nice little woods and farm you used to walk by. ...


EPA report links groundwater contamination to natural gas drilling

The EPA has issued a draft report confirming what many environmental groups have long suspected: Natural gas drilling is causing groundwater contamination.The agency conducted its water testing in Pavilion, WY - a town that is replete with gas wells, and where residents have long complained of sickness after drinking their water. The agency's samples, collected between March of 2009 and April of 2011, found high concentrations of diesel fuel, methane, benzene and chloride. Those chemicals are found in the fluids used in hydrofracking, the process that natural gas companies use to extract gas from shale formations deep underground. ...


Delmarva litter storage suit ruffles feathers throughout the poultry industry

When a federal judge hears arguments in the so-called "chicken lawsuit" this April, it won't be just the chicken growers who will be paying attention. The case, which the University of Maryland Environmental Law Clinic filed in late 2009 on behalf of the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Assateague Coastkeeper against the Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm, a Berlin, MD, chicken grower, and Perdue Farms, a national poultry integrator, could have national implications for the way poultry companies do business. ...


Support for offshore wind power picks up speed in Bay states

Travelers across the 20-mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel that connects Virginia's rural Eastern Shore with the urban center of Norfolk and Virginia Beach have an expansive view of the Chesapeake Bay - a view often heralded for its breadth and beauty.


In addition to farmland, mergansers, oystercatchers and passing ships, the view in the future may include some new features: offshore wind turbines with their blades spinning, producing energy for the commonwealth of Virginia and beyond. ...


Dam demolition now the preferred method for creating fish passages

Bay states removed 11 dams in the Chesapeake watershed during the past year, opening 148 miles of river habitat to migratory fish, according to figures compiled by the Bay Program.

Dam demolition represents the preferred method of opening new habitat in the hope of spurring the recovery of migratory fish such as shad and river herring. Only one traditional fish ladder was built last year.

In contrast, when Bay Program fish passage efforts moved into high gear in the 1980s and 1990s, constructed passages such as ladders got most of the attention. ...


A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


  • Grownups | Chesapeake Challenge 01/06/12


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