Bay Journal

July-August 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 5

Sink your teeth into this quiz!

It is not unusual for the weather in early March to be “biting cold.” So what better month to celebrate teeth? In this first part of the quiz, match the creatures listed here with the four statements just below them, then answer two toothy questions. 

Set sail to turn back in time at Spocott Windmill Village

Little known fact: On the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay, in the days before fossil fuel, there were dozens and dozens of wind-powered gristmills.

Maryland’s Dorchester County alone, by some accounts, had 20 of them. That makes sense when you think about it. The Eastern Shore, with hundreds of square miles of mostly pancake-flat topography, has little fast-moving water, but plenty of wind.

Today, none of the windmills remain, because … well, mostly because of wind. The last of Dorchester County’s windmills blew down in a hurricane in the very early 20th century.

Lead story image

First sewage-storing tunnel comes online in DC

The Anacostia River, which has for decades functioned as the polluted washbasin of an urban watershed, may now have less bacteria than the Potomac River during rainfall.

In mid-March, DC Water opened the floodgate on a 2.3-mile section of concrete tunnel that’s been under construction since 2005. With the rolling away of a concrete slab, about 80 percent of the polluted sewage and stormwater runoff that has for decades flowed into the Anacostia will be diverted into this underground tunnel.

In this first of several sections of tunnel under construction, more than 400 million gallons of polluted water can be stored in the bowels of the city until the utility’s wastewater treatment plant can fully treat and release it into the Potomac.

Lead story image

Stream mapping helps to identify most cost-effective restoration sites

When Joseph Sweeney purchased farmland in Lancaster County, PA, in 2001, its fairly level pastures were typical of a traditional local farm — so were the steep, failing banks that strangled the stream as it ran through the property. 

“I could jump across any part of our stream when we first bought the property,” Sweeney said.

About 10 years later, after a major stream restoration project involving government agencies, university researchers and consultants, things had changed.

Lead story image

James spinymussel population approaching rock bottom

Mussels. Aside from some marine species appearing occasionally on menus, what do we really know about them? Freshwater members of this group of bivalves are perhaps the most obscure members of the Chesapeake Bay area’s waterways: camouflaged filter feeders dependent on whatever flows their way.

Logging trucks and even casual hikers unknowingly crush them as they splash over shallow streams. Mussels look just like rocks and generally behave as such. Immobile and silent, they are as much a part of the streambed as the cold stones they resemble, but their critical ecological role is often overlooked. And they’re increasingly endangered by our own actions.

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.

Lead story image

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.

Lead story image

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.

Task force looking for ways to control invasive blue catfish

People may not learn to love blue catfish in the Chesapeake Bay, but perhaps they will learn to love them on their plate.

A draft report from a task force that spent more than a year looking for ways to deal with the large, voracious — and rapidly expanding — blue catfish population acknowledges that the invasive species has likely become a permanent resident of the Bay, and says action is needed to prevent “irreversible” harm to the ecosystem.

Tool would significantly cut phosphorus runoff in MD

Maryland’s proposed, but controversial, Phosphorus Management Tool would help achieve significant nutrient reductions from the state’s agricultural lands if implemented, according to an analysis by the Bay Program.

The phosphorus tool, which was proposed by the state Department of Agriculture last year, uses information about phosphorus concentrations in soil and other site-specific conditions to determine the likelihood that the nutrient would run off fields and into waterways. Farmers could be prohibited from applying additional phosphorus to fields that score too high.

Chefs hope to get area hooked on local fish, sustainability

After 15 years of restaurant ownership in the District of Columbia area, all the while harboring a particular passion for seafood, chef Robert Wiedmaier decided the best way to get onto the water more often was to buy a boat (or two) and a historic estate along the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is the Patuxent River,” he said on a cool morning in July, steering his 18-foot Parker as he narrated the familiar scene. “We’re right at the mouth, which is nice for fishing, because we can be out in the Chesapeake Bay in eight minutes.”

With Wiedmaier at the helm, his longtime fishing buddy and fellow chef, David Guas, set up a half dozen fishing lines to troll not far from the dock.

Balloons are no cause for celebration if you are a marine animal

Christina Trapani pulled a metallic-coated balloon, ribbon still attached, from the sandy beach on Fisherman’s Island — one of 22 that eventually were recovered from a quarter-mile of beach she and her team survey for Virginia’s marine debris program.

Trapani, from the Virginia Aquarium’s Stranding Response Program, knows that for every balloon she extracts from the sand, hundreds more have made their way into rivers, coastal waters and open ocean — and into the stomachs of sea turtles and other marine animals that mistake them for a favorite food, jellyfish.

VA’s marine debris program strives to change trashy behavior

At low tide on Fisherman’s Island, ghost crabs scurried in and out of holes on a beach still wet from the receding tide, their travels periodically interrupted by a small group of people walking slowly and peering intently at the sand.

The people were a team of marine debris surveyors studying sections of this remote stretch of beach at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay.

Toxic conversation: Panel addresses contaminants in local waterways

Chemical spills in West Virginia, North Carolina and Virginia this year have brought toxics to the forefront of discussions about common pollutants in the Chesapeake Bay, even though each of them occurred just outside the watershed.

A panel discussion on toxics and water quality at the Choose Clean Water Coalition conference in Staunton, VA, in early June brought to light how little is known about substances that, in many cases, are permitted to be released into waterways. The panel included local experts on toxic contamination who discussed current regulations, with a focus on the status of permits and laws in Virginia.

Despite higher score, Baltimore waterways still get failing grade

Baltimore’s harbor and the streams that feed into it again merited a failing grade on their 2013 annual report card, indicating the waters around the metro area suffer from continued loads of nitrogen, phosphorus, sediment and garbage.

The report card, which is part of the Healthy Harbor initiative of Blue Water Baltimore and the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, looks at multiple indicators of human health and pollution, and maps where they are, before giving its grade. Factors include dissolved oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus, chlorophyll a and water clarity. It also looks at conductivity from chemicals, particularly those laden with salt, and fecal coliform bacteria, which is coming from sewage and septic systems.

Census: Farmland growing in Bay states

After decades of decline, one resource in the Bay watershed is making a comeback — farmland.

Figures from the most recent agricultural census from the U.S. Department of Agriculture showed that the Bay watershed gained about 125,000 acres of agricultural land between 2007 and 2012, bringing the total to more than 12.6 million acres of crops, pastures and other farmland.

While that’s small — and within the census’ margin of error — it does signal that the region’s once precipitous rate of farmland loss halted in recent years as the housing market weakened and prices for many crops hit record highs.

VA groups influence gas decisions through education, cooperation

While the country enjoys relatively stable energy prices, largely because of the increase in natural gas development, residents in parts of Virginia remain unsure how their communities will contribute to the supply.

But conservation, land trust and citizen groups are taking lessons learned from fracking educational campaigns in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley and applying them to their work with Virginia’s Tidewater communities that lie atop the Taylorsville shale oil basin.

In 2010, a Texas gas developer sought a special use permit from Rockingham County in the Shenandoah Valley to drill into Marcellus Shale.

University of Maryland Law


Ecotone Ecological Restoration
Ernst Seeds-Restoring the Native Balance
EQR - Jan 2018 arial view
Stormwater Maintenance & Consulting.  WE PROTECT AND RESTORE.
Clydes Sports Shop
High Tide in Dorchester
Support Independent Journalism
filler ad - sea grass
A Documentary Inspired by William W. Warner’s 1976 Exploration of Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay.

Copyright ©2018 Bay Journal / Bay Journal Media / Advertise with Us

Terms of use | Privacy Policy