Bay Journal

March 1991 - Volume 1 - Number 1

In case anyone is asking: Warmer temperatures hurt the Bay

This is fundamental to the science behind saving the Bay.

In a February interview on KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, questioned whether a warming climate might actually be a good thing. “We know that humans have flourished during times of warming trends. So, I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal temperature should be during the year 2100, or the year 2018?” he asked.

Here in the Chesapeake Bay, there is overwhelming documentation of the damage that climate change will wreak on this national treasure.

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Trumpeter swans add flourish to Patuxent Refuge’s winter

As the days get longer, spring approaches. Before winter ends, though, it’s worth taking note of some infrequently seen avian visitors to Maryland this season – trumpeter swans.

With a wingspan up to 7 feet and a standing height of about 4 feet, the trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the largest waterfowl in North America. So named because of their deep, sonorous bugling, trumpeters aren’t a common sight around the Chesapeake Bay. But several have been reported since December in and around the Patuxent Research Refuge between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Multiple birds have also been sighted as recently as this week in southern Anne Arundel County.

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When it rains, it pours in Ellicott City

Beth Woodruff keeps a “go” bag packed in her home — spare clothing and essentials in case she has to flee at a moment’s notice. 

“Every time the weather radio goes off,” Woodruff said recently, “we start watching the river to see if it’s time to go.”

Woodruff doesn’t live along the Atlantic Coast, and it’s not hurricanes that put her on edge. She’s a resident of Ellicott City, MD, at least 120 miles from the ocean and a dozen or more miles from the Chesapeake Bay. It’s sudden, severe downpours that worry her because in just a few minutes they can turn the stream in front of her house into a raging torrent, rising out of its banks to wash over her driveway and prevent escape by vehicle.

You know spring is around the corner when…

Although the vernal equinox — the official first day of spring — occurs on March 20, changes in our natural world are already heralding the end of winter. These changes are erupting on the land, in the sky and in waterways, as quiet, gray days begin to burst with color and song.

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Norfolk’s Lafayette River close to meeting oyster restoration goal

Kalie Johnson didn’t plan it this way, but she’s helping to restore oysters in one of the most challenging places in Virginia.

[Kalie Johnson (left), owner of Colonial Oyster Company, Jackie Shannon of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and volunteer Clark Dewing knock oysters off overgrown cages retrieved from mouth of York River. (Dave Harp)] Three years ago, the Williamsburg native launched her own aquaculture business, Colonial Oyster Company, which raises hatchery-bred bivalves at the mouth of the York River. It’s been a good spot for cultivating shellfish, but shortly after she started, nature threw her a curve. Eighteen of her 250 cages became so heavily overgrown with wild-spawned oysters that she couldn’t get them aboard her skiff to clean off the hitchhikers.

Figuring that portion of her stock was lost, the 27-year-old oyster grower offered to donate everything in and on those cages to the Lafayette River in Norfolk, if she could only get help salvaging her gear.

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Virginia lawmakers keep coal ash recycling on the table, feds try to loosen regs

Virginia requirements for the disposal of ash produced by coal-burning power plants could soon be more stringent than rules set by the federal government.

The General Assembly approved a bill at the end of session last week that requires companies with coal ash pits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to take another step toward recycling their contents, though the measure stopped short of requiring recycling. The bill forces companies such as Dominion Energy, which maintains nearly a dozen coal ash pits in the state, to seek proposals from contractors to recycle coal ash into concrete or other construction materials and to compile the costs into a report for lawmakers to consider by the end of the year.

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A growing respect: Plain Sect become more involved in Bay conversation

A small stream flows out of the mountains in Lancaster County, PA, near the Berks County border, with water as clear as a freshly wiped window pane. It winds through woods and over stones, shaded by trees and embraced by undeveloped land.

Downstream, where the trees give way to farmland, the stream flows through an enclave of Amish farms, first through Benuel Zook’s pasture and then through Raymond King’s.

As recently as 2012, the stream ran brown once it hit pasture. It was often lined with up to 250 cows, from the first pasture to the last, about 40 from each farm. Their manure, combined with soil from eroding banks, entered the stream.

But then farmers began to make some changes — and delivered a chain of conservation actions with collective results.

Project Clean Stream collects future stewards as well as trash

Every year between March and the first week of June, tens of thousands of volunteers come together to clean up their local communities as a part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream — the largest trash cleanup initiative in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

For more than 15 years, the support provided by project has sustained the cleanup efforts of volunteers and groups, both big and small, throughout the watershed. Cleanup events receive support with free gloves, trash bags, first aid kits, safety vests, signage and assistance coordinating the project’s logistics.

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How close to perfect must Bay water quality be to achieve goal?

States in the Chesapeake Bay region are spending billions of dollars to stem the flow of nutrients that foul the Bay’s water — but just how “clean” must the Bay be to declare victory?

The answer is a complex mix involving a lot of science topped off with some policy decisions, as well as one that could be subject to debate in coming months. 

In fact, a handful of places around the Bay were always likely to fall short of prescribed cleanup goals even if all of the actions to support the Bay’s “pollution diet” were fully enacted. Those places were given variances that allowed their dissolved oxygen levels, at specific times and locations, to fall short of established minimum levels.

New computer model projections show that some of those areas may no longer need such variances if current pollution reduction goals are met. But the deepest area in Maryland’s portion of the Bay, between the Bay Bridge and the mouth of the Patuxent River — a segment known as “CB4” — may be even more problematic.

EPA seeks $16.3 million for Bay Program in ‘92

The Environmental Protection Agency has requested $16.3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program during the 1992 fiscal year which starts Oct. 1.

If approved by Congress, that would be a slight increase over the $16.2 million approved for the current 1991 fiscal year, but a substantial rise over the $12.7 million appropriated in 1990.

The money, administered by EPA's Chesapeake Bay Liaison Office in Annapolis, will allow continued technical and management support for pollution prevention and control activities to protect critical habitats, surface water and ground water.

Nonpoint pollution needs more money, emphasis — GAO

Nonpoint source pollution poses equal or greater health and environmental risks than point source pollution but the EPA¹s plans to tackle the problem appear to be doomed because of underfunding, according to a recent Congressional report.

EPA¹s nonpoint source programs were outspent more than 15-to-1 by point source programs in the 1990 fiscal year, according to the report from the U.S. General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Much of the problem, GAO said, is that laws protecting the nation¹s water quality have historically emphasized control of point source pollution — pollution from industries, sewage plants and other sources which can be monitored at the end of a pipe — over nonpoint sources, such as runoff from farms and city streets.

1991: Taking a new look at an old goal

Four years ago, the Bay states signed what appeared to be a straightforward commitment: Reduce the amount of nutrients entering the Bay by 40 percent.

Do this, it was thought, and the fish, shellfish and underwater grasses that make the Chesapeake the nation's premier estuary would begin returning to their former levels.

Since then, state, federal and local governments have spent millions of dollars to upgrade sewage treatment plants, control runoff from fields and cities, protect wetlands and coastal areas, and to research further the intricacies of the Bay itself.

This year, its time to take a step back and see if the cleanup effort is on target. Or, for that matter, whether what seemed like a straightforward goal in 1987 is still the target to shoot for.

This is the "1991 Re-evaluation."

Report calls for new efforts to curb pollution from recreational boating

The Bay states and the federal government should make a concerted effort to reduce the amount of wastes from recreational boats ‹ particularly human wastes ‹ which enter the Bay and its tributaries, a new report says.

While wastes from recreational boats are not a major Baywide pollution problem, the combined discharges from many boats could have a significant impact in local areas, such as marinas or piers located in small tributaries, according to a report from the Recreational Boat Pollution Workgroup.

The group was formed by the Chesapeake Bay Program Implementation Committee in May 1990 to address an objective "to eliminate pollutant discharges from recreational boats" which was made in the 1987 Chesapeake Bay Agreement.

Panel: Reducing nutrients growing more difficult

The Bay states may fall short of the 40 percent nutrient reduction goal — the centerpiece of the Bay cleanup strategy — unless the states improve and expand existing nonpoint control programs, warns a new report.

The report from the 15-member Nonpoint Source Evaluation Panel found that voluntary programs aimed at controlling agricultural runoff are being adopted at too slow a pace to reach the 40 percent goal. The panel also concluded that the estimates of nutrients controlled by many commonly used techniques were "probably optimistic."

Tagging turtles

It's dinner time at the Virginia Marine Science Museum. On the menu is a something with the look and texture of spinach Jell-O.

It is a tasty mixture of gelatin, carrots, spinach, haddock, cod, and Purina trout chow which is served on a stick in inch-thick wiggly slabs.

Tasty, at least, for the six young loggerhead turtles who are getting the blend.

Bay preservation act survives attempts to weaken it in Va. General Assembly

As the Virginia 1991 General Assembly session drew to a close, lawmakers put the finishing touches on a number of pieces of environmental legislation.

But the General Assembly's most significant Bay-related actions may have stemmed from the bills they killed, rather than those they passed.

Lawmakers killed three different bills aimed at weakening the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act — a law passed in 1988 to protect environmentally sensitive coastal areas such as wetlands.

First Bay ‘toxics of concern’ list is completed

The first Baywide 'Toxics of Concern' list was recently approved by Bay Program's Implementation Committee, listing 14 substances which either adversely affect the Chesapeake or have a 'reasonable potential' to do so.

The intent of the list is to help managers target these toxic substances for additional research and to strengthen existing or establish new regulatory controls and prevention actions.

The list will be revised by the end of this year and after that it will be updated every two years. As the result of that review process, substances may be either added or removed from the list based on new research.

First Bay ‘toxics of concern’ list is completed

The first Baywide 'Toxics of Concern' list was recently approved by Bay Program's Implementation Committee, listing 14 substances which either adversely affect the Chesapeake or have a 'reasonable potential' to do so.

The intent of the list is to help managers target these toxic substances for additional research and to strengthen existing or establish new regulatory controls and prevention actions.

The list will be revised by the end of this year and after that it will be updated every two years. As the result of that review process, substances may be either added or removed from the list based on new research.

University of Maryland Law


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