Bay Journal

November 2012 - Volume 22 - Number 8

Harris Creek oyster project offers hope

On board the R/V Potawaugh, scientists were lowering cameras to scan the bottom of Harris Creek, trying to discern the quality of oyster habitat on the bottom. They were having little success.

Murky water obscured the images being transmitted. Finally, Jay Lazar began using a small, metal tong, roughly the size of a coffee can, to grab samples from the bottom.

Some grabs were mostly mud, others a mix of mud and shell. Then, he struck a patch of recently planted clam shell.

"Whoa! Look at that!" exclaimed Lazar, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office. Attached to the clam shells were a couple of tiny clear globs — oyster spat. The crew snapped photos with their cell phones, which within hours would stir excitement among others working on Harris Creek.

Legal costs derail Jackson River suit over VA fishing rights

Many talk about the heavy costs that litigation can impose on the parties in a lawsuit. One with personal knowledge is Dargan Coggeshall, an angler fighting to keep Virginia's rivers open to fishing and other recreational uses. (See "Anglers learn that fishing in some VA rivers is at their own risk," September 2011.)

In a trespassing dispute over fishing rights in a portion of Virginia's Jackson River — a dispute that arose out of a pre-Revolutionary War land patent from the British Crown, called a "king's grant" — Coggeshall incurred costs of more than $130,000 with the potential for incurring another $50,000.

Baltimore partnership works to lure area residents to harbor

Last summer, the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore worked overtime to bring residents to the city's Inner Harbor.

They organized concerts at West Shore Park, a small patch of green space near the city's visitor center. They gave out free drinks. There were free yoga classes, free science lab days and the opening of a new park near Pier Six. The Partnership even offered a deep parking discount for some of their events.

Judge hears arguments in Eastern Shore poultry runoff suit

After three years of legal wrangling, the question of whether an Eastern Shore chicken farmer violated the Clean Water Act and whether the company he grew the birds for was also responsible has finally headed to court.

In October, U.S. District Judge William Nickerson listened to arguments in Waterkeepers Alliance Inc. v. Alan and Kristin Hudson Farm and Perdue Farms, Inc., a suit that an environmental group brought against a Berlin chicken producer and the company for whom the husband-and-wife team grew their chickens.

Ditches latest tool to control nitrogen runoff from farms

William Collier steers his tractor across MD Route 312 in Henderson, MD, following a well-worn path through acres of high corn and green soybeans. He idles the engine when he reaches his destination: a square cover near a ditch, sitting among deep weeds.

It doesn't look like much, but the technology underneath the cover is something worth seeing. It helps to reduce the nitrogen-laden runoff that enters the ditch, which protects streams and rivers. In dry times, it also helps the farmer conserve his water. In wet times, and during storms, it protects the crops from floods.

Environmental groups file suit to block water pollution trading

Two environmental groups have challenged the legality of fledging trading programs that are being promoted as a cost-effective way to help achieve the nutrient reduction goals established in the Chesapeake Bay "pollution diet."

Food & Water Watch and Friends of the Earth say trading programs are more likely to hurt than help pollution reduction efforts. They want to block the EPA from implementing provisions of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load that would allow entities to meet their nutrient reduction requirements through trading programs being developed by the states.

Reduction, bait fisheries await menhaden harvest ruling

James Kellum sat uncomfortably in an overstuffed chair in the ante room of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria, VA, fidgeting with his tie. His large frame strained at the confines of his dark suit, making Kellum look perhaps more like a former professional football player than the commercial fisherman he has been for more than 20 years.

He left his home in Reedville, VA, at 4 a.m. one hot August morning to beat the horrendous Northern Virginia traffic and sat nervously killing time. Kellum, as well as other commercial anglers and conservationists, were waiting near a committee room to hear from, and perhaps testify before, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Committee. This regulatory body manages various saltwater species on the East Coast and their decisions about fish stocks and harvest limits have become hotly contested.

Buoys offer 24/7 real-time data on conditions in the Chesapeake

After paying the launch fee at a marina in Havre de Grace, MD, Doug Wilson walked back to the Zodiac inflatable boat shaking his head.

The marina manager, who routinely checked local air, water and other climate conditions on the Internet, was oblivious to the fact the information was coming from a yellow buoy floating in the distance. "It was the first he had heard about it," said Wilson, an oceanographer with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Chesapeake Bay Office, "even though you can see it from the office."

MD striped bass spawning lowest on record; dry weather cited

This spring's warm, dry conditions likely contributed to striped bass having their worst spawning success on record in Maryland, according to an annual survey by the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science also reported poor spawning results from their surveys in Virginia's waters.

Spawning success for striped bass, which is heavily influenced by weather, is notable for its sharp year-to-year changes. This year's index, the lowest since the Maryland survey started in 1954, followed the survey's fourth best year in 2011.

Court hears arguments on challenges to Bay TMDL

While it has been nearly two years since the EPA finalized its plan to put the Chesapeake's 64,000-square-mile watershed on a "pollution diet," the question of whether the agency was acting within its authority remains unsettled.

Within weeks of the EPA finalizing what it called a "historic" Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load in December 2010, the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and American Farm Bureau Federation filed suit challenging its legality.

That suit, which was later joined by several other agricultural trade groups as well as the National Home Builders Association, contends that the EPA overstepped its legal authority in developing the cleanup plan, used flawed models to develop the plan and gave inadequate opportunity for public comment.

Habitat continues to shrink around continent’s largest salamander

Pine Creek is quiet. Shallow water rushes over slippery rocks, gurgling through Pennsylvania's famous forests on its way to the Susquehanna River. Nobody is fishing. Nobody is camping. Just 40 miles from Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon, this leafy spot appears to be nothing more than a picnic table and a pretty view.

Peter Petokas knows better. Armed with a wet suit, snorkel gear, a wooden block, a lumberjack's peavey and two eager interns, the Lycoming College biologist dived into the 2-foot deep creek and cranked up a boulder.

White-nose syndrome kills 5.5 million bats in U.S., Canada

On crisp autumn evenings, Virginia biologist Rick Reynolds conducts a grim research ritual that is quickly becoming the norm for bat researchers in the Chesapeake region. He positions himself at the mouth of caves where bats once swarmed and waits to see what doesn't show up.

"It's almost agonizing to be out on those sites," said Reynolds, who monitors bat populations for the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "A few years ago, we'd be there a few hours and catch at least 40 bats. Some nights, well over 100. Now, we're lucky to get into double digits. It gets painful."

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