Bay Journal

September 2013 - Volume 23 - Number 6
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Daughter of Bay seeks to honor island’s heritage, preserve future

The Chesapeake Bay gave Kelley Phillips Cox a childhood of unlocked doors and bare feet. As a young girl growing up on Tilghman Island, it enveloped her in a tight community where the men hunted Chesapeake seafood and the women gathered to pick the Bay’s famous crabs. It introduced her to the sensation of mud under her feet, the thrill of seeing a crab skitter away, the marvel of watching a peeler crab shed for the first time. It inspired her to become a marine biologist, earn her captain’s license and commit herself to restoring the Bay’s waters and preserving her island’s heritage.

Environmental groups, counties ready to challenge Conowingo license

Some environmental groups and county officials have begun positioning themselves to challenge any new license agreement for the operation of the Conowingo Dam.

This June, the Clean Chesapeake Coalition, a group of Maryland counties which has expressed concern that increased pollution from the dam could overwhelm their Bay cleanup efforts, filed a motion with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to intervene in the relicensing.

VA, Riverkeeper differ on how to handle algae in Shendandoah

For the last few years, John Lipetz has known that the chances are pretty good that he’ll encounter some ugly, smelly green stuff in the Shenandoah River when he takes kids out fishing during his “Fish and Explore” camps.

The whole point of Lipetz’ business is to hook others on fishing. “But when the kids start complaining that the river smells like a sewer, I know we’re going to have to move on. What I’d planned as an eight-hour day on the river becomes a two-hour day.”

Jeff Kelble, the Shenandoah Riverkeeper, knows that Lipetz is not the only one affected by the algae, which has regularly become so thick that wading, paddling and casting can be difficult at best and sometimes impossible.

Conservationists making the case for stormwater fees

It’s not easy persuading a voting public that it now needs to pay for a service that’s long been provided underground and under-the-radar. In fact, what would otherwise be skimmed over on a city council agenda —utility fees — has gotten downright dramatic in some cities and counties when it comes to stormwater.

Though stormwater utilities have been around since the early ’90s, more jurisdictions around the country are considering them as a way to pay for upgrades to aging infrastructure and to implement new technologies.

Passing on their pearls of wisdom

When the teeth of the oyster tongs open, a small mound of oysters tumble onto the worn wooden surface of the Bay Quest’s culling board. They are fresh from the floor of the Coan River, on Virginia’s Northern Neck. Their shells are slick with gray silt and dotted with barnacles.

On another day, Capt. David Rowe might take these oysters to market. Today, he’s using them to tell stories of the Chesapeake and the decades he’s spent working its waters.

Rowe is among the working watermen taking part in a heritage tourism program that gives visitors an authentic look at a traditional way of life along the Chesapeake Bay.

Angry constituents, reluctant politicians result in stormwater fees all over the map

Maryland’s 10 largest jurisdictions showed their independent stripes when choosing how to comply with the state’s new stormwater law.

The law, officially known as HB 987 but dubbed the “rain tax” by opponents, was passed in 2012. It required Baltimore City and the state’s nine largest counties to implement a stormwater utility fee by this July.

Some counties, like Howard and Charles, quietly determined how to set a fee for their different housing stocks, including apartments, townhouses and large single-family homes. Other counties, like Harford, initially considered legal action but instead decided to comply. Baltimore City and county wrestled with the demands of faith-based institutions to exempt them — the city, in particular, is home to many large churches, charities and The Associated, a collection of Jewish agencies — but ultimately assessed a fee.

Living Classroom’s Green Team restores forest in middle of DC

Driving across Interstate 295, parking in a concrete lot near RFK Stadium and walking through a tall iron gate, it’s hard to imagine what awaits on the other side.

A wide footbridge sprawls out ahead, spanning a section of the Anacostia River that’s almost unrecognizable. Rather than the trash-strewn and polluted scenes associated with the District of Columbia’s “forgotten river,” here, wetlands flourish along the banks where the river parts around man-made Kingman and Heritage islands.

In 1916, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers dredged the mud flats that were here — and thought to be a breeding ground for disease-carrying mosquitoes — to create the islands as the home for a recreational park in the middle of a growing metropolis.

Poll: VA voters strongly support Bay restoration efforts

More than 90 percent of Virginians likely to vote in the upcoming gubernatorial election support the state’s Bay cleanup plan, according to a poll conducted on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

The poll was conducted by a bipartisan research team that in July telephoned more than 600 registered voters who have a history of participating in gubernatorial elections.

“It’s rare that we can find any topic that has 92 percent support,” said David Metz, a partner with the research firm Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates who helped to conduct the poll.

Service rejects bid to add river herring to endangered species list

Populations of river herring may be at low levels along the East Coast, but the small fish are not likely to disappear and do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, a federal review has concluded.

In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council had petitioned for the fish to receive protection as a threatened species under the act, saying overall numbers of alewife and blueback herring — collectively known as river herring — were a “tiny fraction” of their historic abundance.

Signing of new Bay agreement moved to December

Bay cleanup leaders continue to move forward on developing a new Bay agreement, but now say it will not be ready for signature until December.

Officials earlier hoped to ink the document in October, but after a two-day meeting in July and the receipt of dozens of comments from states, organizations, agencies and some individuals, there was broad consensus that too little time had been allowed for public review.

A revised draft of the document, which is intended to guide restoration actions taken by the state-federal Bay Program partnership through 2025, is expected near the end of September, and will be available for a formal monthlong public comment period.

10 years of management fails to reduce phosphorus in study area

The flat fields that fill the small watershed of Green Run on Maryland’s Eastern Shore don’t look particularly threatening. But the findings of a recent study suggest that they will plague the tiny creek’s water quality for decades.

The results show that 10 years of management actions failed to reduce the amount of phosphorus that had built up in the soil during the previous four decades. They only slowed the rate at which phosphorus was accumulating.

Findings from the run, which is small enough to easily hop across and is located in the headwaters of the Pocomoke River, may be bad news for achieving water goals in areas with high phosphorus buildups. They suggest that it may take decades in those areas — primarily regions where animal farming operations prevail — to reduce phosphorus runoff, even if phosphorus applications were halted altogether.

EPA: States on track to meet nutrient reduction goals

Jurisdictions in the Bay watershed are on track to meet their nutrient reduction goals set for the end of this year, according to figures released by the EPA.

Figures released by the agency this summer showed that much of the reductions are driven by upgrades to wastewater treatment plants, which in many states have already met, or in many places surpassed, their two-year nutrient reduction goals.

The figures showed a more mixed bag on efforts to control runoff from agricultural and urban areas. Overall, they show progress being made in many areas, but the EPA, as well as environmental organizations that reviewed the data, said the quality of information provided by states in many cases needs improvement.

Service rejects bid to add river herring to endangered species list

Populations of river herring may be at low levels along the East Coast, but the small fish are not likely to disappear and do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, a federal review has concluded.

In 2011, the Natural Resources Defense Council had petitioned for the fish to receive protection as a threatened species under the act, saying overall numbers of alewife and blueback herring — collectively known as river herring — were a “tiny fraction” of their historic abundance.

American shad run was low but stocking efforts were up

Biologists say this spring’s shad run remained at relatively low levels, though they also reported a robust season for stocking hatchery-reared fish in tributaries around the watershed.

They also reported strong numbers of American eels at the Conowingo Dam on the Susquehanna River and the launch of a river herring stocking effort on the Patapsco River. American shad, as well as eels and river herring, are near record low levels along the East Coast.

New MD index to more closely look at phosphorus’ route to water

Maryland is finalizing a new farm management tool intended to address a longstanding problem – how to keep phosphorus, a key ingredient in chicken manure, from running off fields and polluting waterways.

The new regulations, which may prevent some farmers from putting any more manure on their fields, have been developed to help the state meet its commitment to clean up the Chesapeake Bay.

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