Bay Journal

September 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 6

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

VA farm family takes a year off to rest the soil, themselves

Attila Agoston high-steps through the foliage that’s reached knee-tickling heights near a small cluster of apple and peach trees on his organic farm. By early August in most years, goats or a mower would have made a run at these grasses, cutting a pathway to the fruit for picking.

But they — along with the farmers — are taking the year off. Well, sort of.

Sonar gives scientists clearer picture of river herring runs

After spending years in the ocean, the alewives and blueback herring had at last found their way back to the Chesapeake, and were slowly working their way upstream against the Choptank River current.

Like their ancestors for thousands of years, instinct drove their migration the spawning grounds where they had been hatched years earlier and would release eggs and sperm for a new generation.

Ghost fleet may go from wrecks to recreation

Don Shomette was about 10 years old in when he first encountered the “ghost fleet” of Mallows Bay.

He was aboard a jon boat with his father and brother, coming down the Potomac River from a shoreline campsite in the mid-1950s. It was a gray morning. The water was churning and visibility was poor. On the river, they met an old waterman setting out crab pots who asked if they were trying to find the ghost fleet.

Intersex smallmouth bass found in all 16 PA sample sites

Smallmouth bass with eggs in their testes, a condition known as intersex, turned up at all 16 sites sampled in Pennsylvania from 2007–10, with the most severe cases coming from the Susquehanna River, according to a recent report by U.S. Geological Survey scientists.

The results highlight growing worries about the potential impacts that a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors may have on fish and wildlife in the Bay region, where smallmouth bass with intersex characteristics have also been widely found in the Potomac drainage.

The problem has caught the attention of Congress, which has funded a five-year study of the problem in the Bay watershed.

University of Maryland Law


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