Bay Journal

September 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 6

Politics, Schmolitics—We All Want a Healthy Planet

A depressing myth about “the American people” has been debunked consistently in surveys among actual Americans.

The myth portrays U.S. citizens as pitted acrimoniously right against left, with no common ground between us and no interest in finding some.

Worse, it depicts Americans as hostile to our own homeland — happy to wreck our ecosystems, obliterate wildlife populations, public lands and water supplies; and eager to hand our fragile public coastal habitats over to destructive private drilling operations.

Eagle provides a ‘golden’ moment to crown a day of birding

We had just finished a wonderful three hours enjoying the avian bounty of the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Cambridge, MD. Our animated discussion about winter waterfowl was slammed to a halt as a huge raptor flew right in front of us and disappeared into the trees bordering Key Wallace Drive.

The bird was only in view for a few seconds, but the identification was unmistakable. Huge, powerful, dark brown and wearing an elegant golden scarf — it was a golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and we were momentarily speechless.

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DiPasquale’s legacy is leaving a better Chesapeake than the one he inherited

While kayaking in a couple of Chesapeake Bay tributaries last fall, Nick DiPasquale experienced some good news firsthand — by nearly getting stuck.

“The grass beds were so thick you basically got hung up in them,” he recalled of his excursions to the Mattawoman and Gunpowder rivers. “It was almost like being on land.”

As DiPasquale wrapped up his 6.5-year tenure at the helm of the state-federal Chesapeake Bay Program partnership, the Bay has had some of its best water quality in years. Underwater grass beds have surged to their highest level in decades.

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PA’s Environmental Rights Amendment grows some teeth

For all of its natural bounty, Pennsylvania has environmental woes aplenty. Take your pick — 19,000 miles of impaired streams, 5,500 of them from abandoned coal mines; state environmental agencies and programs starved of funds as Pennsylvania fails to do its part to maintain safe drinking water and clean up the Chesapeake Bay; and state forests carved up by drilling pads and pipelines.

But the state does have an Environmental Rights Amendment. Since 1971, Pennsylvania’s constitution has guaranteed that the people have a right to clean air, pure water and the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. 

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Hogan urges U.S. Senate to reject curb on EPA role in Bay cleanup

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan this week sent a letter urging Senate leaders to oppose a House-passed measure that would strip the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of its power to act against any Bay watershed state that fails to meet its Chesapeake pollution reduction goals.

Hogan -- who chairs the Chesapeake Executive Council, which guides Bay restoration policy -- voiced his “strong opposition” to a pending spending bill provision put forward by Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-VA. The House approved it last September by a vote of 213 to 197, but whether it takes effect depends on congressional budget negotiations to be completed by next month.

Hogan said Goodlatte's amendment would harm Bay restoration efforts by preventing the EPA from enforcing “policies and procedures that are necessary for achieving pollution reductions in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.”

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Winter brings waterfowl bonanza to Bay

If you think you’ve been seeing more ducks, geese and swans around the Chesapeake Bay this winter than usual, you’re onto something.

Recent aerial surveys have tallied more than one million waterfowl of all types along Maryland’s coasts and shoreline, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday. That’s 25 percent more than were seen last year and about 20 percent above the average for the last five years.

Other actions needed before rushing to address climate’s effect on nutrients

I was among the first and have been among the most persistent scientific advocates for addressing climate change in our efforts to restore the Bay. Even so, I think that the recent decision of the Bay Program's Principal Staff Committee not to increase, at this time, the nutrient loads that must be reduced by 2025 to accommodate the effects of climate change is appropriate. 

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Trump proposes slashing EPA Bay funding 90 percent

The Trump Administration is proposing to spend $7.3 million on the Chesapeake Bay Program next year.

That’s $7.3 million more than it proposed in last year’s budget, when it called for eliminating it and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's other regional water quality programs. But it’s 10 percent of what the Bay restoration program has been receiving — and significantly less than Congress is poised to approve for 2018.

It’s part of a broader budget proposal released Monday that calls for an overall 23 percent cut for the EPA in the 2019 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

Finding enchantment in our theater of grace

Fairies are nesting in my trees. Right there in my front lawn, at the very top of my tulip poplars.

In the wintertime I can see them cleverly posing as seed clusters perched at the end of the trees’ highest branches. Sometimes they look like golden chalices, or crowns, or stiffened gowns hung upside-down. When the wind is right you can hear them whispering, as if conspiring about the next mischief they will play on the deer.

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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