Bay Journal

December 2012 - Volume 22 - Number 9

Conservationists fight to save one of PA’s gem streams

Brook Lenker aimed the van along a dirt road that wound though a narrow valley filled with hardwood trees that had gone largely undisturbed for decades. Waterfalls poured down the mountainside in places, and hemlocks provided a touch of green along streams as leaves of other trees adopted their autumn orange and yellow hues.

This was part of Loyalsock State Forest, which covers 114,494 acres of northcentral Pennsylvania. Much of the land was bought from the Pennsylvania Lumber Company in the early 1930s after it had logged the area. Shortly thereafter, the Depression Era Civilian Conservation Corps set up several camps in the area to reclaim the land and the forest.

Today, its expansive woodlands provide critical habitat for forest-dwelling birds; its clear streams draw anglers in search of brook trout; and popular trails cross its valleys and plateaus, including the Old Loggers Path, one of the state's most popular long-distance trails.

Court of Appeals agrees to hear case of Lake Bonnie’s former owner

The woman who lost her Eastern Shore lake to septic tank pollution from a nearby town will get her day in court.

Maryland's Court of Appeals has agreed to hear the case of Lake Bonnie, a 28-acre lake that feeds into the headwaters of the Choptank River and was once the site of a popular campground in Caroline County. (See "Lake slowly died as town, despite state order; did nothing to replace failing septic systems," October 2012.)

Kent Island residents fight sewer plan despite failing septics

When the Chesapeake Bay Bridge connected Maryland's Eastern and Western shores in 1952, land speculators were among the first to cross it.

They bought swaths of Kent Island land that hugged the Chesapeake and the small creeks feeding into it. They divided the land for thousands of summer cottages as quickly as possible. In those days — before building permits and zoning ordinances, before the state critical area law and strong federal wetlands protection laws — they built homes as close to the water as they could. With no sewer service available, they installed basic septic systems.

Report suggests actions to offset Potomac’s pollution

The Washington, DC, area is slated to welcome 2 million people over the next 20 years. All of that growth will, if no preventive steps are taken, further damage the already polluted Potomac River.

No one can stop the growth, but the cities and counties that border the river — which range from some of the nation's wealthiest to some of its poorest — can take steps to mitigate the damage.

Those are the findings of "Troubled Waters: State of the Nation's River 2012." The Potomac Conservancy's sixth annual report on the river outlines the pollutants found in the river and suggests ways to mitigate them.

Report says MD is getting lax in fighting environmental crime

State and federal prosecutors in Maryland were once leaders in prosecuting environmental crimes, but budget cuts and shifting priorities have resulted in fewer cases coming to the courts and lighter penalties when they do, according to a recent report.

The report comes from the Center for Progressive Reform, a group of attorneys and public policy scholars nationwide that look at environmental protection, food safety regulation, climate science and regulatory policy.

Farmers gambling on making more profits with less nitrogen

Anthony Beery gestures across the road from his dairy farm's milking barn to a gently sloping field with just the stubble of a harvested corn crop left. He remembers, about a decade ago, when heavy rainstorms would wash so much dirt off the field that a skid-loader was needed to scrape it from the road below.

Thanks in part to no-till practices Beery has incorporated on his Mount Crawford, VA, farm's 450 acres of feed crops, that field barely leaks water these days and the soil stays put.

6 MD counties unite to fight cleanup mandates, point finger at dam

Several Maryland counties, alarmed about the high cost of cleaning the Chesapeake, have formed a coalition to battle what they consider to be unfair state mandates in the legislature, and potentially in court.

Letters circulating among local governments charge that counties are facing huge costs to lessen local sources of pollution while state and federal agencies are not aggressively tackling major pollution problems — in particular the sediment built up behind the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River — which the counties fear will overwhelm their local efforts.

Environmental groups and state and federal officials vigorously dispute the claims made in the letters. They contend that most cleanup actions required by counties are needed to clean up local waters — areas largely unaffected by the Susquehanna and the Conowingo.

Wetland restoration goal on target; stream side buffer goal lags

Bay watershed jurisdictions are on pace to meet their wetland restoration goal, but the rate of streamside forest buffer planting has fallen far below target levels in recent years, according to recent figures from the Bay Program.

Data collected from states show that 3,775 acres of wetlands were restored in 2011. That's ahead of the pace needed to achieve a goal established in 2010 to create or re-establish 30,000 acres of wetlands within the Chesapeake watershed by 2025.

The 3,775 acre figure — the equivalent of about 2,855 football fields —also represents an acceleration in the pace of wetland establishment over the period of 1998–2010 when 14,795 acres were established, or about 1,200 acres a year.


Large number of eels caught at Conowingo give biologists hope

Efforts to restock eels in the Susquehanna River got a big boost this summer when biologists captured a surprising 135,478 elvers at Conowingo Dam and released them far upstream.

That was a big increase over the 84,961 last year, which had been the most captured since 2008, when eel-stocking efforts began.

The success was a surprise because biologists thought the huge amount of sediment that passed through the dam during Tropical Storm Lee in September 2011 might affect this year's migration.

"We had not predicted a great year," said Steve Minkkinen, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Maryland Fishery Resources Office.

Participants await decision in Eastern Shore poultry runoff suit

After three years of litigation and three weeks in a federal courthouse, the case against Eastern Shore chicken growers, Alan and Krisin Hudson, and Perdue Farms, Inc., is not yet decided.

The defense rested its case on Oct. 22. Lawyers for Hudson and Perdue argued that the Waterkeeper Alliance, a New York-based federation of Riverkeepers, did not prove that the Hudsons violated the Clean Water Act. They also argued that Perdue was not responsible for any pollution found in the farm's ditches because the Hudsons had cows and that they could have been a likely source of any high fecal coliform counts found on the farm.

Chesapeake landscape losing its working waterfronts

Harold Robinson has made his living out of Wingate Harbor for all of his good years. He knows every piece of the bottom in this marshy Dorchester County crossroads, where Hearns Cove meets the Chesapeake Bay. At 64, the Toddville resident is one of the last working oystermen around these parts. And he knows his days on the water, too, are numbered. Not for nothing has he called his boat Limited — a reference to the restrictions the state has placed on what and when watermen can harvest.

"They get you back to the wall, where it's just so hard to make a living," Robinson said as he stopped in the marina's office to get a part for his boat. "Some winters, we didn't even work at all."

The ranks of oystermen in Maryland have long been dwindling. But now the harbors and marinas that once housed their boats are going away, too.

Suggestions for 6 unnamed Monocacy tributaries streaming in

Advocates for Maryland's Monocacy River are testing a theory. Are streams with names more likely to be loved?

Many place names in the United States, including rivers, can trace their origins back hundreds of years. In some cases, they can go back thousands of years to American Indian words. But despite this far-reaching heritage, followed by a growing surge of people across the landscape, many geographic features still have no official name.

A Bay Journal Film, Nassawango Legacy


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