Bay Journal

May 1991 - Volume 1 - Number 3
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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.

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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.

Listen for the haunting call of loons on Bay’s frigid winter waters

Loons are the submarines of the bird world. Webbed feet gracefully propel this bird underwater, giving the impression of submerged flight, as the loon stalks its prey. Diving, sometimes as deep as 200 feet, the loon snatches a fish in its dagger-like bill and returns to the surface to eat.

With their sleek bodies, thick necks and short tails, loons float low in the water and can easily ride out fierce storms. Feet located toward the rear of the body make the loons agile in water but awkward on land. They only come ashore to breed or when wounded.

Thanks to those who have our back, we can face the new year

Happy 2018! As we embark on a new year, I need first to thank the many, many Bay Journal readers who made contributions to support our work during 2017. We’re sending so many thank-you letters to donors that I can’t sign them all in one sitting without getting hand cramps — and that’s actually a good thing!

Bay Barometer finds things keep looking up

The wintry weather outside may be frightful, but the latest Bay Barometer is pointing in a generally positive direction.

The annual report released by the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program trumpeted continued gains the long-running effort to restore the estuary, with new highs reached last year in fish passage, water quality and blue crab and underwater grass abundance.

Wilderness connected: The case for an Eastern “wildway”

Healthy waters are dependent on healthy land. Healthy land is dependent on big, healthy forests. And healthy forests, in turn, depend not only on sun and rain and fertile soil, but also on a broad array of wildlife — animals that, when allowed to roam throughout their natural habitat, perform much of the unseen heavy lifting in a thriving forest ecosystem.

Yet today, on the mountainous slopes that feed the headwaters of the Chesapeake Bay, these important balances are threatened. 

State lawmakers face continuing Bay debates in 2018

As they return to their chambers this month, state legislators across the Chesapeake watershed face some of the same Bay-centric environmental issues they’ve seen before.

In Maryland, they’ll debate what more, if anything, should be done to conserve the state’s forestland from development and whether air pollution from chicken houses deserves a closer look. In Virginia, lawmakers will revisit what should be done with vast quantities of potentially toxic coal ash now stored in unlined pits at power plants. And in Pennsylvania, a proposal to regulate lawn fertilizer use to keep it from fouling local streams and the Bay is likely to rear its head again.

Oysters starting to show signs of resistance to Dermo, MSX

Oysters come to the Cooperative Oxford Laboratory for a checkup. But they never go home, even if they’re in peak health. They’ve sacrificed their goopy gray bodies to science.

The federal-state lab in the former fishing village of Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is where government scientists examine oysters and other fish for parasites, diseases and any other maladies that may be afflicting populations in the wild.

Baltimore scrapyard agrees to curb polluted runoff

A Baltimore metal recycling business has agreed to pay a $50,000 penalty and upgrade stormwater pollution controls at its facility near the harbor to settle a string of alleged violations first discovered by Maryland regulators nearly two years ago.

In a settlement agreement released Thursday, Baltimore Scrap Corp. pledged to submit a “site improvement plan” within 60 days for reducing polluted runoff from its scrapyard. The company also agreed to conduct more rigorous and more frequent testing of runoff entering storm drains there and to pay further penalties ranging up to $2,750 for each time excessive levels of certain potentially toxic pollutants are detected.

The pact, reached with the Maryland Department of the Environment and Blue Water Baltimore, comes nearly a year after the watershed watchdog group filed a notice of intent to sue the company, and nearly two years after MDE inspectors first cited it for a series of stormwater violations

Seedy birdie!

Do you want to increase the odds of seeing some of these birds, and others, at your backyard feeder but are puzzled about what to feed them? Instead of trying to solve this problem on your own, we are supplying the answers up front.

Fall wild oyster survey: ‘It’s been a nutty year’

A waterman tonged for oysters nearby as the diesel-powered Miss Kay chugged out from Oxford to join him in searching for shellfish in Maryland’s Tred Avon River. The first drag of the vessel’s dredge across the bottom came up brimming with shells, which the crew quickly began picking through.

These oysters weren’t destined for a raw bar, though, or a shucking house — the entire catch was part of an annual oyster “bed check” by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. In the course of the morning, 30 bivalves would be kept as a sacrifice to science back on shore. The rest, after being counted, measured and recorded, would go back in the water.

Wildlife watching continues to lure Americans outdoors

Even as our society continues to depend more on technology for everyday activities and recreation, our love of nature and connection with the outdoors continues to be an integral part of our identity as Americans.

This passion for wildlife and wild places is reflected in the preliminary findings of the 2016 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife-Associated Recreation. First conducted in 1955 — and every five years since — this survey is based on interviews with thousands of citizens, ages 16 and older, from all walks of life.

VA farmer raising row crops, cattle, turkeys – and fuel

Glenn Rodes was born and raised on an 860-acre turkey farm in Port Republic, VA, just south of Harrisonburg in the Shenandoah Valley. Four generations of his family live there still, raising turkeys, cattle and row crops. With the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance; some of the trees look as old as the state itself.

But while Riverhill Farms may seem unchanged by time, Rodes and his family are looking to the future. They have been experimenting with turning manure into energy for several years. Rodes even calls himself a “fuel farmer” in his email address.

The Rodes farm has a Bio-Burner, a biomass heating system that uses a portion of the manure from the 280,000 turkeys they raise each year to produce heat for their poultry houses and save thousands of dollars annually in propane costs.

Maryland targets two Potomac River tributaries for oyster restoration

The Hogan administration has selected two Potomac River tributaries in southern Maryland for large-scale oyster restoration efforts, one of them poorly rated by state biologists, while holding out hope of opening some state oyster sanctuaries for limited commercial harvesting.

Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton announced Friday that he’s recommending Breton Bay and the upper St. Mary’s River, both in St. Mary’s County, as the fourth and fifth Bay tributaries where Maryland would work with federal agencies to try to restore oyster populations. They are across the Chesapeake from the state’s other three waterways targeted for restoration — Harris Creek and the Tred Avon and Little Choptank rivers.

If you see a sea turtle in the Chesapeake, consider yourself very lucky

Sea turtles, large and lovable to their fans, have endured a long decline around the world and in the Chesapeake Bay. But a team of international scientists has delivered a bit of good news, at least on a global scale.

The results of their study, published in the September issue of Science Advances, show that some species of sea turtles, after years of decline from harvesting practices and lost habitat, are beginning a modest rebound on a global basis.

Whether or not that rebound extends to the Chesapeake remains to be seen.

Bay water quality nears record high mark

Water quality in a little more than 39 percent of the Chesapeake was good enough during the last three years to support Bay creatures, from worms to crabs to fish, figures released Thursday show.

That was the second-best extent of good water quality seen in any three-year period since coordinated Chesapeake monitoring efforts began in 1985, according to the state-federal Bay Program partnership.  

Bay jurisdictions’ no-action climate policy puts restoration in peril

Despite research demonstrating that climate change is adding millions of pounds of nutrient pollution to the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and his Bay states colleagues appear to be taking a page from the Trump playbook: Ignore this inconvenient truth.

Doubts about whether climate change is caused by humans and threatens the planet are rapidly going the way of urban legend. Just ask any resident of Puerto Rico, the Gulf Coast or California how life was during the three consecutive hurricanes or the wildfires that have plagued them this summer and fall. Reliable scientific research shows climate change is also compounding pollution in the Chesapeake. Rainfall exacerbated by these dire developments could mean millions of additional pounds of nitrogen and significantly more phosphorus reaching the Bay every year that will put restoration out of reach by 2025.

2018 marks the crucial midpoint assessment that should ensure restoration remains on track, saving the Bay from dead zones and protecting 18 million watershed residents from increased flooding and toxic algae blooms. Yet regional regulators and political leaders recently decided to let themselves ignore climate-induced pollution during this crucial reassessment, kicking this heavy can down the road until 2025 or later.

Still waters reveal raft of deep-diving white-winged scoters

We arrived at the refuge at daybreak and had already spent an hour watching huge flocks of waterfowl in the coves at Eastern Neck National Wildlife Refuge in Kent County, MD. Our attention shifted to the open waters leading away from the Chester River into the main body of the Chesapeake Bay. We weren’t disappointed.

Fifty yards offshore, a small raft of sea ducks was loafing on the still waters. I focused the spotting scope on the center of the group and pulled a large black duck into focus.

Atlantic Coast Pipeline wins qualified VA go-ahead

A divided Virginia regulatory panel has given a qualified go-ahead to building a controversial natural gas pipeline across the state, but made its approval contingent on further review of the project’s water-quality impacts.

The State Water Control Board’s 4–3 vote on Tuesday, coming at the end of a tense two-day public meeting in Richmond, prompted opponents of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline to claim a partial victory, though officials seemed at a loss to explain what the decision means.

Before granting the project a key approval, some of the board’s seven members questioned whether they had enough information to certify that water quality would not be harmed by construction of the 600-mile pipeline across wild, mountainous terrain and the state’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Therefore, the board conditioned approval on completion of several environmental impact studies.  

MD trailer park sewage facility’s zoning violation upheld

A Maryland mobile home park operator whose wastewater discharge is causing problems for a farmer downstream violated local zoning laws by building his sewage treatment facility too close to the stream, an appeals board has ruled. It’s not clear, though, what the remedy is — or if there is to be one at all.

The Caroline County Board of Zoning Appeals has upheld a local official’s ruling that Frank Prettyman built the wastewater treatment plant for Prettyman Manor in the wrong location.

But the unanimous decision doesn’t get the Eastern Shore county any closer to declaring what to do about the problem created in 2016 when Prettyman constructed the treatment plant by Little Creek, a tributary to the Choptank River.

The past is alive in former mill town of Waterford, VA

On the outskirts of the sprawling suburbs to the nation’s capital, there’s a time machine of sorts that can transport you back a century or two. It’s a quaint village called Waterford.

You’ll find it preserved like a dragonfly in amber amid the cookie-cutter housing developments that are gradually consuming the rural remnants of Loudoun County, VA, one of the nation’s fastest-growing communities.

Virginia board approves first of two pipeline projects despite fervent opposition

A proposed natural gas pipeline through mountainous western Virginia cleared a key hurdle last week, as the State Water Control Board approved water-related permits needed to begin building the 106-mile segment through the state.

The board’s approval of the Mountain Valley Pipeline on Thursday, after two days of meetings in Richmond, was seen by environmentalists as an indicator of how the citizen regulatory body would rule next week on another gas conduit, the proposed Atlantic Coast pipeline, which would cut through the state’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

The state Department of Environmental Quality had recommended that the board approve permits certifying that the Mountain Valley Pipeline would not harm state water quality, and the citizen board agreed — though not unanimously. Two of the board’s seven members, Nissa Dean and Roberta Kellam, cast dissenting votes.

Biologist fighting uphill battle to get eelways built on Potomac dams

Decades ago, as Ed Enamait and other biologists surveyed the Potomac River for walleye, smallmouth bass, muskie and other freshwater game fish, they discovered a disturbing trend.

Every year during the 1980s and ’90s, their electroshocking gear brought fewer stunned eels to the surface. “It was troubling,” said Enamait, then a fisheries biologist with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. “And it just kept going down.”

Enamait voiced his concern about the decline within the department, and when two small hydroelectric dams on the Potomac were up for relicensing in 2002, the DNR weighed in to help the eels. They asked that special passages be built for them at Dams No. 4 and No. 5, which are, respectively, about 23 and 45 miles northwest of the river’s confluence with the Shenandoah River at Harper's Ferry.

Dominion’s review of coal ash ‘alternatives’ still favors on-site storage

After a year’s worth of study dictated by Virginia lawmakers, Dominion Energy still thinks burying millions of tons of coal ash in nearly a dozen pits across the state is the best way to prevent it from polluting nearby rivers and streams.

That’s the upshot of a presentation that the Richmond-based company made this week to the State Water Commission, a joint House-Senate legislative study committee.

Company representatives on Monday summarized an 800-page report prepared in response to legislation passed earlier this year, which required Dominion to examine the potential to recycle or move to landfills the coal ash now stored in drained lagoons at four of the company’s power plants in the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

Environmental groups say Conowingo operator can afford to help restore Bay

Exelon Corp. could help restore the lower Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay by changing the way it generates electricity at Conowingo Dam, and still make a “healthy” profit, a pair of environmental groups said Tuesday.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation and The Nature Conservancy released a study they jointly commissioned that finds that the Chicago-based energy company could easily afford to mitigate the impacts Conowingo is having on downriver fish habitat and water quality.

With oyster restoration project in doubt, MD urged to lift ban on stone reefs

Warned that oyster restoration delays in the Tred Avon River could threaten federal support for future projects, a key Maryland advisory panel has urged the Department of Natural Resources to drop its opposition to using granite rocks to build shellfish habitat in the Eastern Shore tributary.

But Natural Resources Secretary Mark Belton has yet to decide whether to follow the advice of his oyster advisory commission. Even if he does, the funding to finish the Tred Avon project is up in the air.

At its meeting last month, the DNR’s 24-member advisory panel on oyster management voted 14 to 7 in favor of letting the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers use rocks, rather than clam shells, for oyster reef construction planned in the Tred Avon. Two members were absent, and one was undecided.

Cove Mountain forests offer refuge for animals, people

From a distance, Cove Mountain looks like it floats on the Susquehanna River. Closer up, it’s a typical Pennsylvania red oak-dominated forest, with scattered lichen and moss-covered boulders, clear mountain streams and clearings well-stocked with wildflowers.

This unspoiled wilderness is also one of the largest plots of undeveloped mountain land just outside of Harrisburg and, as such, has been eyed by developers for years.

Construction of a 500-home development, a bedroom community to Harrisburg, has begun on one side of Cove Mountain; the other side is now a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy.

Growth projections to be used to adjust 2025 Bay pollution goals

For state and local governments in the Bay watershed, 2025 may get here sooner than anyone thought.

In what may be a significant change for some areas, the state-federal Bay Program is looking to use projections of 2025 growth in human population, farm animal numbers and land use changes when it updates nutrient and sediment reduction goals next year.

Since the end of 2010, when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency established the Bay pollution diet — or total maximum daily load (TMDL) — states have worked to control the amount of nutrients and sediment that wash off the landscape and ultimately into the Chesapeake, where they contribute to murky water, algae blooms and oxygen-starved dead zones.

We need to shift gears on the pursuit of economic growth

Come ride bikes with me. Don’t dismiss as idle our idyll through an ideal autumn “leafscape” today, for our pedaling shows the way to a better Bay.

My bike has but one speed, unfashionable in a high-geared, tech-fueled world that now affords cyclists push-button shifting through a range of cogs and cranks sufficient to conquer the Alps and pass Porsches.

Single-speeding is limiting — then liberating. It makes you respect the lay of the land, to seek the gentler slopes that meander alongside the hills, to value the wooded corridors that block headwinds.

MD pays steep price for Hallowing Point site with access to the Patuxent

A one-time mobile home park in such poor condition that many of its dwellings violated livability codes is slated to be transformed into one of Maryland’s newest waterfront parks as well as offices for the Department of Natural Resources.

But some are questioning whether the state paid too much for a tract with marginal ecological value that had little chance of ever being developed.

Over the last three years, the DNR has used Program Open Space funding to buy three Calvert County parcels totaling nine acres at Hallowing Point on the Patuxent River. State and county officials plan to turn it into a waterfront park with a boat ramp, fulfilling a long-neglected need for more public access to the water.

‘I’ll never leave this place, and I hope this place will never leave me’

Like most high school seniors, Cameron Evans is at the edge of change. He’s anxious about whether to major in photography or politics, annoyed about having to go to the dentist, animated when talking about the Yankees, his favorite team.

But most seniors don’t worry if they’ll be able to go home after leaving for college; or if they’ll have a home at all after the next hurricane. Evans does; he lives on Tangier Island, or what’s left of it, in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.

With no organized after-school sports to play at the Virginia island’s small combined school, and no girls to date because he’s known them all since kindergarten, Evans heads out most afternoons in a small skiff toward what remains of the Uppards, part of the Tangier settlement that was abandoned in the 1920s.

Explore lesser-known preserves on Virginia’s Northern Neck

An easy 10-minute hike through towering oak and hickory brought me to an observation deck 25 feet above Bush Mill Stream on Virginia’s Northern Neck.

Below, the stream meandered through straw-colored cordgrass, fringing dark mudflats that sparkled with ice from the receding tide.

DC Water leader’s initiatives cleaned up utility’s reputation as well as runoff

George Hawkins doesn’t need a PowerPoint presentation to illustrate the hurdles he faced when he took the helm of DC Water in 2009.

He just needs his fist.

“This is what I felt was coming at us,” Hawkins said in his office at the utility’s Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Plant in the District of Columbia. He balled up the fingers of one hand to deliver the symbolic punch that’s been part of his stump speech for the last eight years. “It was going to knock us down.”

Bay Journal Media appeals EPA decision; files FOIA suit

Bay Journal Media, the nonprofit organization that publishes the Bay Journal, on Nov. 20 filed an appeal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contending that the agency’s decision to terminate a multi-year grant was unlawful and potentially an infringement on the First Amendment to the Constitution.

The EPA had notified Bay Journal Media on Aug. 23 of its intent to cancel the six-year award to help produce the Bay Journal. The agency acted after funding only two years of the grant, citing an unspecified “shift” in agency priorities.

Its decision came after the EPA, in a departure from past practice, charged a political appointee in the Office of Public Affairs, John Konkus, with reviewing the agency’s grants — a task usually handled by career employees. Members of Congress and outside watchdog groups have criticized the change.

Flathead catfish, swimming under the radar for years, now raising concerns

Charlie Wandrei first flipped through photographs of beaming anglers holding monster flathead catfish about five years ago at the Pennsylvania Sportsman’s Show in Harrisburg. He was hooked.

“I was absolutely excited,” said Wandrei, who’s from Adams, MA. “I live near the Connecticut River, which has a lot of catfish, but they don’t get nearly as big as those.”

Wandrei got a photo of his own in June, smiling widely while holding a 35-pound lunker pulled from the Susquehanna River.

The characteristics that make the flathead catfish, Pylodictis olivaris, attractive to anglers are the same ones that worry scientists. Weighing up to 100 pounds, they are voracious feeders that vacuum up any smaller fish they can fit into their gaping mouths. But they are not native to the Susquehanna, and they are growing larger and faster there than they do in their native range, the Mississippi River basin.

One Water interfaith partners spread the good word about controlling stormwater

For years, the Chizuk Amuno Congregation in suburban Baltimore had a lake it didn’t want on its front lawn.

“Lake Chizzie” was the Baltimore County synagogue’s flooded parking lot, created when rainwater pooled on the low-lying portion of a paved surface large enough to accommodate the 1,200 member families’ cars. On the other side of the main building, near the pre-school, was another parking lot cum lake: a lot that often flooded and, in the winter, created ice hazards for children.

The synagogue leadership knew that the flooding was not only an unattractive and sometimes dangerous nuisance, but also a staging area for polluted stormwater runoff that would eventually find its way to the Chesapeake Bay. They sought ways to fix it, eventually receiving $240,000 in funds and in-kind assistance from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Blue Water Baltimore.

You attract more landowners with birds, bees than TMDLs

On a warm Saturday morning this fall, more than 30 landowners gathered on a property in Baltimore County to learn a little about promoting the birds and the bees. Literally. The workshop, titled Get to Know Your Backyard Habitat, invited local residents to see an example of stellar wildlife habitat tended by landowners Pascale Meraldi and Joe Clarke for almost a decade.

Menhaden catch limit raised along Atlantic coast, slashed in Bay

East Coast fishery managers plan to increase the coastwide menhaden catch by 8 percent next year, while slashing the amount that can be harvested from the Chesapeake Bay.

But despite heavy pressure from environmental groups, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission balked at a proposal that would have required fishery managers to take into account the ecological role of the small, oily fish when setting future harvest levels.

By the end of their two-day meeting in mid-November, commissioners had succeeded in disappointing and pleasing environmentalists and industry officials alike — typically not at the same time — while setting up another big debate two years from now over how to account for the role menhaden play as a food source for other species.

Colorful critters

Here is a quiz about colors in the animal world. Will you pass it with flying colors?

Endangered sturgeon’s return to James River could be hurdle for industry

In the James River south of Richmond, endangered Atlantic sturgeon have become so common that observant spring and fall boaters are nearly guaranteed to see one breach. It’s hard to miss — a 6– or 7-foot fish exploding out of the water, as if shot from a cannon, wiggling for a split second in midair, then belly-flopping back into the river with a theatrical splash.

Long-lived and enormous — in its 60-year lifespan it can grow to 14 feet and weigh as much as 800 pounds — the Atlantic sturgeon was harvested to the brink of extinction in the late 1800s. But after a century of marginal existence, this prehistoric-looking fish, with its flat snout and rows of bony plates covering its back, is staging a steady but still fragile comeback in the Chesapeake Bay.

Industrial runoff in MD fouls Bay, threatens communities, report says

Unbeknownst to most Marylanders, many industrial facilities are polluting state waters and the Chesapeake Bay with their stormwater runoff, while also threatening the health of neighboring communities, says a new report by a pair of environmental groups. The groups blame weak state controls and lax enforcement.

More than one-third of the Maryland facilities that reported their stormwater discharges from 2014 to March of this year exceeded pollution limits for potentially harmful chemicals, according to records reviewed by the Center for Progressive Reform and the Environmental Integrity Project, both Washington-based nonprofits.

Legacy of passing down the family farm may turn into pipe dream

I have always viewed it as my responsibility to pass on Mt. Rush Farm, our business and property in Buckingham County, VA, to the fifth generation in as good as — or better — condition than I had received it. I never imagined that in the United States, where we pride ourselves on improving our lives through hard work, another business could jeopardize our legacy and future.

The proposed 42-inch, high-pressure Atlantic Coast Pipeline, though, would rip through our property for one mile, scarring our farm, endangering our precious water supply and threatening everything generations of my family have built.

Fishery managers reject - for now - bid to manage menhaden for their ecological value

East Coast fishery managers Monday rejected a proposal backed by conservation groups to start setting harvest limits for Atlantic menhaden based on their role as food for other fish and wildlife, not merely their commercial value.

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission received nearly 160,000 public comments, more than 99 percent of which urged it to adopt the new harvest guidelines, or reference points, that would take the ecological role of the fish into account when setting catch limits. If adopted, the guidelines would almost certainly have required a reduction in the current coastwide menhaden catch limits of 200,000 metric tons.

 

Striped bass reproduction in Bay a bit above average, surveys show

Striped bass reproduction in the Chesapeake Bay slightly exceeded the long-term average this year, annual surveys show, offering hope that the population is rebounding from low levels that led to coastwide fishing restrictions three years ago.

In Maryland — where reproduction has historically been an accurate predictor of future coastwide populations — the annual juvenile index has been above average for two of the past three years.

That’s an improvement from the previous seven-year span when the index had been below average in all but one year. That reproductive drought spurred the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, which regulates the harvest of migratory fish, to impose a coastwide catch reduction in 2014, including a 20 percent cut in the Chesapeake.

Bay’s oyster aquaculture harvest closing in on wild fishery

More than a century after the first oysters were planted on a Virginia bar, aquaculture has firmly taken hold in the Chesapeake Bay. The value of Virginia’s oyster farms production has eclipsed the public fishery, and many oyster experts believe Maryland is heading in the same direction.

As of last year, 173 Maryland oyster farmers have leased more than 6,000 acres of the Bay and its tributaries, all of which are actively producing oysters. Harvest from those leases yielded almost 65,000 bushels in 2016 — an increase of 1,000 percent since 2012. In the meantime, Maryland’s public oyster harvest, suffering from mediocre to poor reproduction since 2010, saw its harvest drop 42 percent in 2016 to about 224,000 bushels.

No man’s land is ideal habitat for animals

“Please Straddle Turtles.” The curious sign, on a lonesome dirt road that winds through marshes and forests along the northern Chesapeake Bay, shows a military Humvee taking care to keep a spotted turtle between its wheels.

The turtle in question, classified as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, is a small reptile with a dark head and shell with bright yellow polka dots, reminiscent of the starry night sky.

One wouldn’t expect it to be surviving here at Aberdeen Proving Ground, a giant military facility near its namesake town in Maryland, where every weapon a soldier fires, up to the biggest tanks and artillery, has been thundering away since the United States entered World War I a century ago this year.

MD’s veteran sprawl fighter leaves the ring

Dru Schmidt-Perkins figured she’d put two years into launching a new nonprofit in Maryland dedicated to fighting suburban sprawl.

Nineteen years later, she’s finally left the helm of 1000 Friends of Maryland. Sprawl hasn’t been defeated, by any means, but it’s been slowed and even halted for the time being in some places.

Schmidt-Perkins doesn’t claim sole credit for that — the Great Recession that began a decade ago dampened development pressure considerably — but she does believe her group has played a key role in steering Maryland’s growth.

MD presses case for dredging oyster shells from popular fishing reef

The Hogan administration is pressing ahead with its bid to dredge old oyster shells from the largest remaining deposit in Maryland’s portion of the Chesapeake Bay — a move backed by watermen but widely opposed by conservationists and recreational anglers.

The state Department of the Environment has declared its support for the plan to mine 5 million bushels of shells from Man-O-War Shoals, near the mouth of the Patapsco River. The MDE issued a public notice Nov. 1 recommending that the state Board of Public Works grant the Department of Natural Resources a tidal wetlands license, which is needed to do the dredging.

The plan still needs federal approval, but if given the green light, DNR officials say the old shells would be used to replenish reefs in waters open to commercial harvest, help private oyster growers and restore reefs in sanctuary areas.

Shenandoah Valley hot spot of solar co-ops lighting up VA

The central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is rapidly becoming a hot spot for solar cooperatives, as new alternative energy opportunities attract a wide cross-section of homeowners eager to strike out on their own with renewable electricity.

The Mountain & Valley Solar Co-op closed itself to new members on July 19, capping out at 118 households in the western portions of Augusta and Rockingham counties.

“The Valley is the epicenter of our success,” said Aaron Sutch, program director of VA Sun, which put the Valley group together. The Richmond-based nonprofit, now rebranded as Solar United Neighbors of Virginia, offers education and technical support for budding solar co-ops across the state.

The dumbing down of Smart Growth will fail to preserve MD landscape

If you’re not yet worried about Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan’s abandonment of Smart Growth, you might want to read a new study on how Dumb Growth could cost Frederick County taxpayers some half a billion bucks.

First, a brief primer on Smart Growth, which you used to be able to get on the Maryland Department of Planning’s website — until the website and department became a joke under Hogan.

PA lawmakers cobble together budget - without needed boost for Bay, environment

Four months past the deadline for approving a state budget, Pennsylvania lawmakers have finally agreed on how to pay for the $32 billion spending plan they adopted in July.

They did nothing, though, to bolster a budget that offers no new money for Chesapeake Bay restoration, drinking water protection and other environmental programs. In fact, they opened the door to siphoning money from special funds dedicated to conservation and pollution cleanup.

Gov. Tom Wolf signed revenue bills this week to complete the 2017 budget process, a third of the way into the fiscal year. Since July, the Republican-dominated General Assembly debated and defeated any proposals to levy or raise taxes to fill a $2 billion revenue gap.

 

Hurricanes no match for Baltimore’s Harriet the Osprey on her fall trek

This spring, a pair of ospreys returned to a webcam nesting platform in Baltimore’s Masonville Cove.

The ospreys, named Frederick and Harriet by osprey cam followers, are determined birds. In 2016, a pair of Canada geese took over their nest. Although Frederick and Harriet built a nest at another platform and laid eggs, unusually cold wet weather in May caused them to abandon this nest.

This year, the goose scenario repeated itself.

After decades of progress, James River earns a B- in latest report

The James River has come a long way in the last 40 years, when it was once so polluted that the state outlawed fishing in its waters. And, in the decade since the James River Association began tracking its progress, recovery has continued for Virginia’s largest source of drinking water and major tributary to the Chesapeake Bay.

The Richmond, VA-based nonprofit gave the river a B- in its latest report card, issued at the end of October.

MD senators ask EPA to reverse Bay Journal decision

Warning that its decision to cut grant funding for the Bay Journal sets a “dangerous nationwide precedent,” Maryland’s two U.S. senators asked U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse his agency’s decision in a letter on Oct. 18.

Bay’s history depended on menhaden; its future will as well

Capt. John Smith’s description of the Chesapeake Bay has long been used as a benchmark to compare this unique ecosystem’s health to what it once was long ago. Recently, many find themselves comparing the Bay of today with the Bay of 40 years ago, 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.

These constant changes — most noticeably the clarity of the water and abundance of your favorite species — can’t always be linked to a single phenomenon. One species of fish, though, stands out among the rest as its well-being is directly linked to the overall health of the Bay: the menhaden.

Forum explores connections between healthy lands, waters, people

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s 12th Annual Chesapeake Watershed Forum takes place Nov. 3–5, at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, WV. In keeping with this year’s theme, Healthy Lands, Healthy Waters, Healthy People, the event will explore how the health of the Chesapeake Bay watershed affects the communities that live in it. In conjunction with this theme, the Alliance is focusing on engaging the health community, as well as the communities who are most directly affected by environmental health disparities.

Baltimore scrapyard’s case raises concerns about MD oversight

On a gray, drizzly morning in March 2016, two inspectors from the Maryland Department of the Environment showed up unannounced at Baltimore Scrap Corp., a metal recycling yard just off the city’s busy harbor.

In a report written later, the inspectors described their visit as a routine check of the facility’s stormwater pollution controls. It was anything but routine, though.

Following up on a tip from an environmental group, they ultimately wrote up the company for 11 violations after seeing sediment, oil and possibly other contaminants washing off the cluttered, debris-strewn site into storm drains that eventually reach the Patapsco River just south of Fort McHenry.

Bay Journal’s EPA grant unexpectedly canceled

The Bay Journal faces an uncertain future in the wake of an unexpected decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revoke a multi-year federal grant to the nonprofit news organization that covers environmental issues in the Chesapeake watershed.

In an Aug. 23 email from EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office, the agency said it was canceling a six-year grant to the Bay Journal at the end of its second year, effective Feb. 1. The message cited a “shift in priorities,” with no further explanation.
Under the grant awarded in January 2016, the Bay Journal was slated to receive its next annual disbursement of $325,000 next February.

Bay Journal management is filing an appeal, asking the EPA to reverse its decision.

EPA may have shifted its priorities, but ours remain the same

As a news organization, it’s always uncomfortable to be in the news, as opposed to just reporting it. But political appointees in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have put us in the headlines.

As you have read in related articles, the EPA told us without warning in late August that it plans to revoke a six-year award to partially fund the Bay Journal, beginning in 2018.

Canal children

For 75 years, (1850–1924) canal boats carried salt, salted fish, oysters, potatoes, bricks, salt and plaster upstream. Downstream loads included flour, corn, oats, cornmeal, pork and stone. Lumber and wheat were carried both ways. Operating a canal boat was often a family operation. In fact, Thomas F. Hahn, in his book, The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Lock-Houses and Lock-Keepers, wrote that one boat captain noted that on the canal, women and children were as good as the men, and if it weren’t for the children, the canal wouldn’t run one day. Learn more about what it was like to be a child on a canal boat in this quiz.

Maryland panel weighs in against expanding ‘sponge’ crab imports

A key Maryland advisory commission has weighed in against a bid by Eastern Shore crab processors to nearly double, effectively, the number of egg-bearing female crabs they could import from other states to pick for crabmeat.

The Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission of the Department of Natural Resources voted 13 to1 against a proposal to expand the number of days the processors could import egg-bearing female, or sponge, crabs, from 72 days to 122 days. The lone vote in favor was Aubrey Vincent of Lindy’s Seafood Inc., a processing company in Woolford, near Cambridge.

A few rays of hope - and another major setback for VA pipeline opponents

The multi-billion-dollar Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a natural gas conduit that has been proposed to cross environmentally sensitive areas in Virginia, continues to move through the regulatory process, though several new developments offer environmentalists and private landowners cause for cautious optimism.

On Oct. 13, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission gave formal approval to Dominion Energy’s request to build the pipeline, which will involve the legally sanctioned seizure of private property from unwilling landowners.

Damn the torpedoes, save the Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act is 45 years old this month, born in the U.S. Congress on October 18, 1972. Sometime before that day, the river of my childhood — the Roanoke River in southwestern Virginia — had been declared a fire hazard because of pollution.

I learned to waterski on that river, or rather on one of the manmade lakes along its winding path. It was 1965, and I remember one of those skiing lessons in particular. Dad was the spotter, and his friend George was the driver. I jumped in the water and waited for the handles of the ski rope. With the tips of my skis up and my butt down, I yelled, "forward!"

Rain gardens take root as revitalized community tackles polluted runoff

You can’t see the water from Miramar Landing, but it’s not far away.

The 740-home community sits off Pulaski Highway in eastern Baltimore County, an area packed with restaurants, convenience stores, shopping centers and auto-repair places. The site was once home to military-style housing for thousands of defense workers, now razed. It was once so associated with nearby Martin State Airport that its streets were named for airplane parts.

Over the last decade, though, Miramar Landing has been rebuilt by Ryland Homes as a tidy, 101-acre subdivision of single-family homes and townhouses within commuting distance of downtown Baltimore. Its main streets are named for the waterways it borders — the Middle and Bird rivers.

Documentary delves into rising sea level’s toll on culture, habitat

What happens when land that has been farmed or built upon for more than 300 years, and hunted and fished for thousands of years before that, becomes open water? What happens when nuisance flooding becomes prevalent and undermines roads to such an extent that the cost of fixing them cannot be justified by local government? What happens when one of the most popular national wildlife refuges in the country turns from marsh and upland — beneficial to migratory birds and many native species — to open water with barren bottom?

High Tide in Dorchester, a new Bay Journal documentary film about the cultural and ecological effects of rising sea level in Chesapeake Bay, will seek to answer these and other questions

Cumberland Marsh beckons birds and birders alike

Fall migration is an excellent time to spot a wide variety of birds, and identifying a few birding hotspots can help fledgling birders — as well as experienced ones — know where to go. During fall and well into winter, bird watching groups in the Chesapeake region often flock to Cumberland Marsh Natural Area, about 35 minutes east of Richmond by car.

The 1,100-acre preserve, one of 45 in Virginia, overlooks some of the most pristine tidal fresh wetlands along the Pamunkey River and often yields unexpected sightings.

Key to stream restoration success: location, location, location

With millions of dollars being poured into urban and suburban stream restoration projects across the Chesapeake Bay watershed, a recent study suggests location matters when trying to assess how effective those efforts have been.

After surveying 13 Baltimore highly degraded suburban streams that had undergone makeovers, a pair of researchers found that aquatic insect populations were larger and more diverse in isolated headwaters than in larger downstream reaches.

Poultry expansion on VA Shore draws scrutiny after Tyson plant pollution

The poultry industry’s growing footprint on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is getting new scrutiny from regulators and activists after a head-turning decision by a state regulatory body to demand harsher punishment for pollution violations at a chicken-processing plant.

The Virginia State Water Control Board, a citizen body appointed by the governor, this summer rejected state regulators’ recommended fines against a Tyson Foods facility that’s a hub for a growing number of chicken houses in Accomack County.

We must protect bats as if our lives rely on each other, because they do

With Halloween quickly approaching, images of bats are appearing everywhere. It’s a good time to take a look at one of the most incredible animals on this planet.

No other animal compares to the Earth’s only flying mammal. Like all mammals, bats have hair and their young are born live and feed on milk. But unlike other mammals, the fingers in a bat’s hand are elongated and connected by skin to form a wing.

MD senators call on EPA to reverse Bay Journal decision

Warning that its decision to cut grant funding for the Bay Journal sets a “dangerous nationwide precedent,” Maryland’s two U.S. senators asked Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to reverse his agency’s action in a letter Wednesday.

Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen said the Bay Journal has “done a sterling job of delivering returns on investments,” and that there was “no legitimate cause to deprive the residents of the Chesapeake Bay watershed of such a vital source of information.”

Scientists using costly triage to spare some ash trees from extinction

The wet woods bordering Marshyhope Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore exuded their usual lush green in mid-September, with only a trace of the colors that autumn would soon bring to the thick foliage. All seemed normal.

But catastrophe is on the way, in the form of a little green beetle from Asia that’s wiping out ash trees by the hundreds of millions across the United States. The voracious invaders, emerald ash borers, were spotted a couple of years ago just 20 miles away in Cambridge, so the ash trees lining this stretch of the Marshyhope are almost sure to become infested and die in the next several years.

There’s no place like home to begin saving the Earth

How was your summer getaway?

“Trip from hell,” my neighbors reported. They’d headed west to escape the mugginess, traffic, politics and heat of our Eastern states, hungry for clear mountain vistas, cool breezes, hikes and fly-fishing in Montana.

Instead, haze and heat met them. The warmed trout streams of drought-stricken Montana barely trickled. “We ate smoke for days,” they said. Wildfires surrounded them — even pouring smoke down from Canada.

Judge approves disputed plan to fix Baltimore’s sewage overflows

Brushing aside an environmental group’s objection, a federal judge has given the city of Baltimore another 13 years to eliminate the chronic sewage overflows that frequently render local streams and the harbor unsafe for recreation.

U.S. District Judge J. Frederick Motz approved a consent decree on Thursday spelling out a new plan for overhauling Baltimore’s aged, leaky sewer system. It modifies the initial agreement reached in 2002 with federal and state regulators, which had given the city until January 2016 to fix its problems. Despite spending nearly $1 billion on repairs over that time, by city officials’ estimates, the overflows continue.

Getting steamed over faux Maryland crabs

Nothing says Maryland quite like a steamed crab smothered in Old Bay and slapped on a long picnic table.

But sometimes, unsuspecting diners paying close to a day’s pay for the privilege of eating local bounty may actually be enjoying crabs that were trucked up Interstate 95 in a hot bushel basket — fresh from the Carolina coast or Gulf of Mexico.

Lee Carrion is trying to change that. For more than a decade, she has owned Coveside Crabs with her husband, waterman Richard Young, and has railed against businesses that purport to sell local crabs but don’t.

Big decision looms over little oily fish that feeds so many others

If you were to round up all of the menhaden swimming along the Atlantic coast and somehow put them on a scale, they’d weigh in at about 1.2 million metric tons.

To visualize that, imagine 220,000 Asian elephants stampeding along the coast — about five times more than exist in the world. For menhaden, though, that equates to tens of billions of tiny fish. This fall, fishery managers will tackle the question of whether that’s enough.

Imagine a flight from slavery on Woodlawn Manor trail

Dr. William Palmer married his second wife, Cleorah Duvall, shortly after moving to Woodlawn Manor in Sandy Spring, MD, in the mid-1820s. The marriage came with a dowry gift that would change his plantation’s future: its first slave.

Woodlawn Manor, now a Montgomery County park, would eventually depend on the labor of more than a dozen enslaved people.

The choice to become a slave owner brought personal consequences, too. Palmer was a Quaker, and Quakers were opposed to slavery.

Tangier Island needs help no matter how you define its woes

When I began a documentary film this year about climate change and the Chesapeake, I knew that even though local residents were affected by it, I’d never be able to record most of them talking about sea level rise.

They know what they see. And around Dorchester — Maryland’s lowest-lying county and the focus of our film — residents see erosion of the shoreline, high tides that seem to come more often and forests dying along the marsh edges.

It’s easy to talk past one another, we who are comfortable with the lingo and concepts of climate science, and those who are not — even while all talking about the same thing.

Virginia endowment honors Bay Journal Media

Bay Journal Media was one of 22 organizations recognized as one of the Virginia Environmental Endowment’s “Partners in Excellence” during its 40th anniversary celebration in Richmond on Oct. 5.

The VEE said the Bay Journal, the organization’s primary publication, “is recognized as the media voice for news about the Chesapeake Bay.” The endowment has provided financial support for increased coverage of Virginia issues in the Bay Journal, and has helped launch its recent Local Government Edition, which provides Bay-related information to local officials throughout the watershed.

Peregrine falcons slow to return to Appalachia

Able to dive after avian prey at a shrieking 200 miles per hour, the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth. Yet the return of the peregrine to its historic habitat in the western Chesapeake region has been anything but speedy.

After their numbers were decimated in the mid-20th century by DDT pesticide poisoning, peregrines have made a strong comeback in Eastern urban areas but rarely grace the mountains and valleys of central Appalachia that were once a stronghold for the species.

Virginia board to hear pipeline arguments over four days in December

The fate of two sprawling pipeline projects in Virginia will be decided by the State Water Control Board at a pair of meetings in December, each expected to last two days.

The Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, which would carry natural gas across portions of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina have faced steep opposition from citizens and environmental groups. The projects are undergoing review by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, which has pledged to apply several “regulatory tools…to ensure that Virginia’s water quality is protected” should the projects be approved.

Merlin’s efficiency at dispatching prey mesmerizing to watch

Earlier, we had seen a northern harrier, gliding low over the tawny marsh grasses, cruising for prey. This bird was different. It was fast, with strong, rowing wing beats as it raced along just above the mud flats. It was another raptor, for sure, but with tapered wings and a long, compressed tail; this was a falcon, not an accipiter like the harrier.

Restoration of PA stream to be acid test for trout

In the words of one scientist, the water of Bilger Run, about 20 miles east of Pennsylvania’s famous town of Punxsutawney, “looks like Tang.” Yes, Tang, the powdered orange drink that was available to, if not enjoyed by, U.S. astronauts of the 1960s.

“No one would think there are fish in there,” said Tom Clark, author of the Tang comparison and an acid mine drainage specialist for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

But there are fish in there. There are, in fact, native brook trout in there, considerably more of them than of their nemesis, the larger and somewhat hardier European brown trout.

Oyster season opens on a down note

The public oyster harvest season began Monday, with Chesapeake Bay watermen no doubt hoping for a better haul this fall and winter than last. For Maryland watermen, though, there isn’t a lot of room for optimism.

Despite mild weather last winter, Maryland’s 2016-2017 harvest from public oyster bars was off nearly 42 percent from the year before, a steep drop from the modest decline seen the previous two years. Last season, 1,086 licensed watermen harvested 224,609 bushels of bivalves, down from a 384,000-bushel catch in 2015-2016, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Herring, shad get head start before Bloede Dam removal

Bulldozers, excavators and construction workers are bulling their way into Patapsco Valley State Park near Baltimore this fall. They’re the advance guard for a task force charged with removing a dormant hydroelectric dam on the Patapsco River and reopening a big stretch of the river to spawning runs of migratory fish.

If the project stays on schedule, Bloede Dam should be gone by the spring of 2019. And, biologists shouldn’t have long to wait to see some action. Sampling surveys conducted in the Patapsco River below the dam have collected hundreds of alewife and blueback herring returning each spring as well as a similar number of juveniles later in the year — an indication of successful spawning.

MD moves to allow increased imports of egg-bearing female crabs

Responding to pleas from Maryland crab processors suffering from a depressed harvest this year, a state advisory group is proposing to relax a regulation that could allow importing nearly twice as many egg-bearing female crabs for crabmeat.

But some Maryland crabbers object, warning that the move would undercut their income and endanger the future of the entire Chesapeake Bay fishery.

By a vote of 12 to 2, with two abstentions, the Department of Natural Resources’ Blue Crab Industry Advisory Committee voted Thursday night to nearly double the time period each year when state seafood businesses would be permitted to import “sponge crabs,” pregnant females carrying an egg sac on the outside of their bodies.

 

How canny are you about the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal?

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal opened in 1850, but was gradually made obsolete by railroads. The towpath alongside the canal still exists at the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, operated by the National Park Service. Take this quiz to test how much you know about the canal.

Climate change brings heightened risks in Bay of contaminated water, shellfish

As climate change warms the Chesapeake Bay, people face heightened risks of getting ill from eating raw oysters out of the estuary or from swimming in its waters over the next several decades, a new study warns.

Drawing on climate models and extensive Bay monitoring data, a research team led by scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projects that two of three harmful strains of Vibrio bacteria already found in the Chesapeake can be expected to grow in abundance as temperatures rise. The study appears in the current issue of GeoHealth, the American Geophysical Union’s journal.

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