Bay Journal

March 1991 - Volume 1 - Number 1
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MD leaders pledge support for environmental protections amid Trump rollback

Maryland’s legislative leaders delighted environmental advocates Thursday by vowing to strengthen the state’s forest conservation law, increase renewable energy and pass other green initiatives, while resisting environmental rollbacks by the Trump administration. It remains to be seen whether election-year politics will help those prospects.  

The 23rd annual environmental legislative summit in Annapolis drew a standing room only crowd to hear pitches — and pledges of support — for green groups’ top priorities during the 90-day General Assembly session that began Jan. 10.

“We’re going to make us the most environmentally friendly state in America,” House Speaker Michael Busch declared, to enthusiastic applause. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller voiced similar sentiment, predicting that amid upcoming debates over taxes, spending and other tough issues, “the one thing we’re going to agree on is the environment.”

Save the date(s) for 2018!

Celebrate the Chesapeake year-round! Get out your 2018 calendar and save these dates that mark activities and resources to help you get the most out of living near the Bay.

EPA lifts ban on pesticide known to cause brain damage in children

Science tells us that nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment are the systemic pollutants of the Bay and its tributaries. The Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint seeks to reduce those pollutants to sustainable levels.

It is working. Water quality is improving, dead zones are diminishing and underwater grasses are at levels not seen in 30 years.

But these are not the only pollutants of concern. A recent decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will reverse a prior agency decision to ban the use of a chemical pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which is acutely toxic to Bay life and has been found to cause brain damage in children.

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Is organic farming good for the Chesapeake?

Organic agriculture is the fastest growing sector of the food industry in the United States, and its footprint in the Chesapeake Bay watershed is growing in kind.

The brand of agriculture that eschews the use of pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics and genetically engineered ingredients now makes up 20 percent of Perdue Farms’ poultry production on the Delmarva Peninsula, where the company is headquartered.

Smaller poultry producers in the region also are growing their organic operations at a steady clip: Bell & Evans, which is based in Fredericksburg, PA, and sells its chicken meat to high-end retailers such as Whole Foods Market, launched its line of organic products in 2009 and opened a certified organic hatchery this year. Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley Organic opened its first processing facility in Harrisonburg in 2014, providing contract growers interested in making the switch with an alternative buyer in that region.

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How big was last year’s dead zone? It depends on when you ask

It was quite a surprise: Two reports on Chesapeake Bay dissolved oxygen levels in 2017 came to starkly different conclusions. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported improvements and a vastly reduced dead zone. The Virginia Institute of Marine Science found oxygen conditions at their worst since 2014.

Scientists at both organizations were caught off guard last fall when the seemingly contradictory findings were released within a few weeks of each other and sent them scrambling to analyze the cause. 

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Trauma center provides creature comforts for injured, ailing animals

Tucked away on the outskirts of sleepy Waynesboro, VA, there’s a bustling trauma center for sick and injured wildlife. Think “M*A*S*H” with feathers and fur, featuring the tough triage decisions doctors have to make upon admitting new patients. But here, the patient list is wildly diverse: On any given day, the Wildlife Center of Virginia might see a listless bear cub brought in sick from eating rat poison, a bald eagle dying from ingesting lead bullet fragments in a deer carcass, and a king snake run over by a lawnmower. And that’s just before noon.

Resolve to do the best you can to advance clean water in 2018

As we start to turn the page on 2017, I wanted to brainstorm some ideas for resolutions we can share as a community for 2018.

The new year is a time to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve accomplished in the past year and to commit to new habits and practices moving forward. The start of a new year is a time of transition and an opportunity for intentionality. In this list of resolutions, I offer some thoughts on opportunities that we, as the community focused on improving the Chesapeake region, have together in 2018.

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Hogan announces MD will join state coalition to fight climate change

Declaring that the need for states to work together to fight climate change “grows stronger every day,” Gov. Larry Hogan announced Wednesday that Maryland would join the U.S. Climate Alliance, a mostly Democratic coalition of states committed to reducing greenhouse gases.

The move, disclosed in a letter released by Hogan’s office, represents a shift for the Republican governor, who had remained noncommittal to pleas last year for Maryland to join the alliance, saying he wasn’t sure what the group’s intentions were.

In the letter to the alliance, Hogan recalled that he had publicly disagreed with President Donald Trump’s decision last year to withdraw from the 2015 Paris climate accord reached by nearly 200 nations, including the United States.

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PA fishing fee politics could close shad hatchery on the Juniata

Since it began rearing shad 41 years ago, Pennsylvania’s Van Dyke Research Station has released more than 227 million tiny fish into the Susquehanna River basin.

But this might be the last year that the hatchery — located along the Juniata River, one of the Susquehanna’s main tributaries — rears and releases the migratory fish. The operation may fall victim to a budget dispute between lawmakers and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission.

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.

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