Bay Journal

April 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 2

In case anyone is asking: Warmer temperatures hurt the Bay

This is fundamental to the science behind saving the Bay.

In a February interview on KSNV-TV in Las Vegas, Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Agency administrator, questioned whether a warming climate might actually be a good thing. “We know that humans have flourished during times of warming trends. So, I think there’s assumptions made that because the climate is warming that that’s necessarily a bad thing. Do we really know what the ideal temperature should be during the year 2100, or the year 2018?” he asked.

Here in the Chesapeake Bay, there is overwhelming documentation of the damage that climate change will wreak on this national treasure.

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Trumpeter swans add flourish to Patuxent Refuge’s winter

As the days get longer, spring approaches. Before winter ends, though, it’s worth taking note of some infrequently seen avian visitors to Maryland this season – trumpeter swans.

With a wingspan up to 7 feet and a standing height of about 4 feet, the trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) is the largest waterfowl in North America. So named because of their deep, sonorous bugling, trumpeters aren’t a common sight around the Chesapeake Bay. But several have been reported since December in and around the Patuxent Research Refuge between Washington, DC, and Baltimore. Multiple birds have also been sighted as recently as this week in southern Anne Arundel County.

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When it rains, it pours in Ellicott City

Beth Woodruff keeps a “go” bag packed in her home — spare clothing and essentials in case she has to flee at a moment’s notice. 

“Every time the weather radio goes off,” Woodruff said recently, “we start watching the river to see if it’s time to go.”

Woodruff doesn’t live along the Atlantic Coast, and it’s not hurricanes that put her on edge. She’s a resident of Ellicott City, MD, at least 120 miles from the ocean and a dozen or more miles from the Chesapeake Bay. It’s sudden, severe downpours that worry her because in just a few minutes they can turn the stream in front of her house into a raging torrent, rising out of its banks to wash over her driveway and prevent escape by vehicle.

You know spring is around the corner when…

Although the vernal equinox — the official first day of spring — occurs on March 20, changes in our natural world are already heralding the end of winter. These changes are erupting on the land, in the sky and in waterways, as quiet, gray days begin to burst with color and song.

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Norfolk’s Lafayette River close to meeting oyster restoration goal

Kalie Johnson didn’t plan it this way, but she’s helping to restore oysters in one of the most challenging places in Virginia.

[Kalie Johnson (left), owner of Colonial Oyster Company, Jackie Shannon of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and volunteer Clark Dewing knock oysters off overgrown cages retrieved from mouth of York River. (Dave Harp)] Three years ago, the Williamsburg native launched her own aquaculture business, Colonial Oyster Company, which raises hatchery-bred bivalves at the mouth of the York River. It’s been a good spot for cultivating shellfish, but shortly after she started, nature threw her a curve. Eighteen of her 250 cages became so heavily overgrown with wild-spawned oysters that she couldn’t get them aboard her skiff to clean off the hitchhikers.

Figuring that portion of her stock was lost, the 27-year-old oyster grower offered to donate everything in and on those cages to the Lafayette River in Norfolk, if she could only get help salvaging her gear.

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Virginia lawmakers keep coal ash recycling on the table, feds try to loosen regs

Virginia requirements for the disposal of ash produced by coal-burning power plants could soon be more stringent than rules set by the federal government.

The General Assembly approved a bill at the end of session last week that requires companies with coal ash pits in the Chesapeake Bay watershed to take another step toward recycling their contents, though the measure stopped short of requiring recycling. The bill forces companies such as Dominion Energy, which maintains nearly a dozen coal ash pits in the state, to seek proposals from contractors to recycle coal ash into concrete or other construction materials and to compile the costs into a report for lawmakers to consider by the end of the year.

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A growing respect: Plain Sect become more involved in Bay conversation

A small stream flows out of the mountains in Lancaster County, PA, near the Berks County border, with water as clear as a freshly wiped window pane. It winds through woods and over stones, shaded by trees and embraced by undeveloped land.

Downstream, where the trees give way to farmland, the stream flows through an enclave of Amish farms, first through Benuel Zook’s pasture and then through Raymond King’s.

As recently as 2012, the stream ran brown once it hit pasture. It was often lined with up to 250 cows, from the first pasture to the last, about 40 from each farm. Their manure, combined with soil from eroding banks, entered the stream.

But then farmers began to make some changes — and delivered a chain of conservation actions with collective results.

Project Clean Stream collects future stewards as well as trash

Every year between March and the first week of June, tens of thousands of volunteers come together to clean up their local communities as a part of the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s Project Clean Stream — the largest trash cleanup initiative in the Chesapeake Bay region. 

For more than 15 years, the support provided by project has sustained the cleanup efforts of volunteers and groups, both big and small, throughout the watershed. Cleanup events receive support with free gloves, trash bags, first aid kits, safety vests, signage and assistance coordinating the project’s logistics.

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How close to perfect must Bay water quality be to achieve goal?

States in the Chesapeake Bay region are spending billions of dollars to stem the flow of nutrients that foul the Bay’s water — but just how “clean” must the Bay be to declare victory?

The answer is a complex mix involving a lot of science topped off with some policy decisions, as well as one that could be subject to debate in coming months. 

In fact, a handful of places around the Bay were always likely to fall short of prescribed cleanup goals even if all of the actions to support the Bay’s “pollution diet” were fully enacted. Those places were given variances that allowed their dissolved oxygen levels, at specific times and locations, to fall short of established minimum levels.

New computer model projections show that some of those areas may no longer need such variances if current pollution reduction goals are met. But the deepest area in Maryland’s portion of the Bay, between the Bay Bridge and the mouth of the Patuxent River — a segment known as “CB4” — may be even more problematic.

DC forging path to restore C&O Canal as Georgetown destination

Less than one of the 184.5 miles that make up the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal is located in the District of Columbia, where it originates.

This section of the canal in historic Georgetown is the last remnant in the nation’s capital of a bygone transportation era that lasted for nearly a century.

And it has seen better days.

Oyster restoration at Harris Creek showing real promise

Hidden under the surface of Maryland’s Harris Creek is what looks like — at least for now — one of the Bay’s greatest successes. It is, unfortunately, one that hardly anyone can see.

Work completed through the end of last year restored 188.6 acres of oyster reef habitat on the bottom of the Choptank River tributary, most of it in places more than 6 feet deep.

That’s already made it more than twice the size of any sanctuary-based oyster restoration previously undertaken around the Bay. Yet another 85 acres of new reef construction is under contract — some is already under way — for this year.

Public access authorities preserving coastal access in VA

State Road 110 in Gloucester County ends in a small parking lot, crowded in between modest homes to one side and Belvins Seafood warehouse on the other.

There’s parking for eight cars, a boat ramp and a commercial wharf that’s recently been expanded to accommodate up to 15 boats.

On a cold and overcast February afternoon, this road ending — and the pier beyond — seemed unremarkable, blending into a gray landscape and the watery horizon a half mile beyond where the Perrin River empties into the York River.

With river in his blood, Fred Tutman stands his ground wholeheartedly

Fred Tutman’s office’s backyard features a postcard-perfect view of his beloved Patuxent River. Clumps of brown spatterdock are turning tan, creating a lovely marshy look as the late afternoon sun dips. Boats glide through the channel, their captains waving as they pass. The first osprey of the year surges past the purple martin birdhouses on its dive for a fish.

But the longtime Patuxent Riverkeeper looks deeper and sees something disturbing: a continued assault on Maryland’s longest river — a waterbody that can’t speak for itself — from development and industry, as well as a history of injustices in which the wealthiest communities receive the best environmental protection.

Scientists: New Bay goals should be based on results, not numbers

Over the last year, Bay Program officials have been immersed in setting quantifiable objectives to include in a new Bay agreement. How many acres of wetlands should be restored? How many acres of forest buffers planted? Even how many blue crabs should be in the Bay.

But scientists advising the state-federal partnership say agreement writers are on the wrong track.

Boat rental service could boost access on the Bay

Boatbound, the fastest growing peer-to-peer boat rental company in the country, plans to officially launch its service in the Chesapeake Bay region this summer. The addition of similar rental operations could improve boating access in the region while making boat ownership more affordable.

Boatbound co-founder Aaron Hall lived in Arlington, VA, for nearly a decade before launching the startup venture out of California last year — and he’s been wanting to bring it back to the Chesapeake ever since.

Local actions leading to better water quality in some watersheds

When one looks at the Bay as a whole, the picture is often grim. Water clarity is worsening, underwater grass beds are declining, and oxygen-starved dead zones aren’t going away.

But when taking a broader look at the rivers that feed the Chesapeake, a new report points out, there are numerous, though scattered, signs of success throughout its watershed.

Plan to export liquefied gas at Cove Point divides community

When Keith Lavender tells his Southern Maryland neighbors that he works at the Cove Point liquefied natural gas plant, most have no idea where it is. No, not the nuclear plant at Calvert Cliffs; that’s two miles away. No, not the coal-fired plant at Chalk Point; that’s in the next county. If they still look blank, Lavender tells them it’s that platform in the Chesapeake where the fishing used to be so good.

Lavender’s explanations are about to become much shorter. Cove Point LNG’s owner, Richmond-based Dominion Resources, plans to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from its 131-acre plant in Lusby. If its plans are approved, the plant will send out 85 LNG tankers a year, build its own power plant to chill and liquefy the gas, and bring in more than a thousand workers to complete a vast construction project on these once-sleepy shores eight miles north of Solomons Island.

University of Maryland Law


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