Bay Journal

April 2015 - Volume 25 - Number 2
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Energy Works in PA turning waste into watts

Turning chicken waste into energy is not easy. It requires expensive systems, a high degree of mechanization, and an astute business sense to use every part of the manure. And it probably won’t pay for itself, at least not in the near future.

Patrick Thompson is doing it anyway.

His company, Energy Works, is turning the manure from 5 million egg-laying hens into power. That energy not only runs the nutrient recovery plant and makes it self-powering; it also lets him pay the bills by selling electricity back to the grid and to the egg farm to run its operations. More importantly for the Chesapeake Bay, it converts 240 tons of manure a day into a useful product. Were it not for Energy Works, Thompson said, haulers would take much of the manure to Maryland, where it would be applied on lands closer to the Chesapeake.

MD officials, environmental groups, ratepayers protest merger between Exelon, Pepco

Maryland’s attorney general, several environmental groups, some local governments and ratepayers are protesting a merger between Exelon and Pepco that would create one of the mid-Atlantic’s largest power generation and transmission utilities but could also stymie efforts to make energy greener and less expensive in the region.

Exelon, based in Chicago, already owns Baltimore Gas and Electric and operates the Conowingo Dam. Its plan to take over Pepco, which operates largely in the Washington suburbs of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties and has some business in Delaware and New Jersey, would make the company the largest power supplier by far in Maryland, controlling 85 percent of the state’s market. Pepco is the parent company of Delmarva Power, which serves much of Maryland’s Eastern Shore.


Here’s a quiz to work on while eating the chocolate and jellybean eggs that the Easter Bunny brought you. Match the animal with the description of its egg.

Best strategy in Blackwater’s sea level battle may be sounding the retreat

The observation deck at the edge of Lake Blackwater in the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge gives visitors a view of an ecosystem on the move.

Matt Whitbeck stands at the end of this wooden walkway that stretches over an expanse of green marsh grasses, putting tourists right in the middle of a vibrant wetland. Around the deck, one can spy red-winged blackbirds, buzzing insects and the occasional jumping fish.


Loss of coastal marshes to sea level rise often goes unnoticed

For years, some researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science sensed that the tidal wetlands in the York River, which flows past their Gloucester Point campus, were changing — but they couldn’t say exactly how.

To find out, a research team surveyed all of the wetlands along the York and its two tidal tributaries, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi rivers, using sophisticated GPS equipment. They compared their results, gathered during the last few years, with detailed maps developed in the late 1970s — when fledgling regulatory programs sought to stem human disturbance to tidal marshes.

National seafood policy aims for more transparency in labeling

The Chesapeake Bay’s seafood industry is paying close attention to a report released in late March detailing how the Obama administration plans to reduce international seafood fraud — even if its impact on the local industry would be muted.

The Presidential Task Force on Combatting IUU (illegal, under-reported and unregulated) Fishing and Seafood Fraud released its action plan at an industry trade show in Boston. The report will be open to public comment and input from the industry in the coming months. The report lays out how the Obama administration could tighten regulations governing seafood imports, which often arrive mislabeled or carrying products that have been illegally fished or overfished.

Farmers reduce pollution after ditching old way of handling runoff

A decade ago, Mike Long looked out over his 3,000-acre farm in the northern reaches of Indiana and didn’t like what he saw.

The Shatto ditch, a canal-like drainage ditch that carries water away from the area’s farms, sometimes ran turbid, depositing thick, brown water into the Tippecanoe River.

That turbidity, Long knew, came from eroding soils that were loaded with commercial fertilizers. He and his neighbors applied nitrogen and phosphorus to bare fields, hoping to enhance ground that was losing its mineral content. Rains washed the nutrients and the sediments into the ditch because there were no cover crops or grass waterways to soak it up.

Eastern Shore’s nutrient woes exacerbated by location, topography

The intense poultry farming on the Eastern Shore, combined with the peninsula’s flat topography and proximity to tidal waters, has produced water quality problems that will likely plague the Chesapeake Bay for decades, a new report concludes.

While the Eastern Shore covers just 7 percent of the Bay watershed, it receives nearly twice the nitrogen and phosphorus applications per square mile as the rest of the watershed, according to a report released by the U.S. Geological Survey in March.

The amount of nitrogen and phosphorus, both nutrients, would be difficult to deal with anywhere, but a host of factors — from slow-moving groundwater to the Eastern Shore’s soils — work together to make the pollution problems associated with them even more difficult to resolve.

Flurry of bills take aim at plastics that persist in local waters

Beads, bags, balloons and polystyrene — each made of plastic and each the subject of recent legislation in Chesapeake Bay states — could become less common in local waters if the number of bills banning or attaching fees to them continues to grow and gain favor in the legislatures.

Even as ongoing surveys are determining the spread of plastics and scientific studies are identifying their ecological impact, state and local governments have considered a flurry of bills this legislative season to curtail a mounting plastics problem.

VA legislature keeps conservation funding mostly intact

Chesapeake Bay issues generally fared well during the 2015 Virginia General Assembly, whose short, six-week session adjourned on time for the first time in 15 years.

The legislature passed bills to protect water quality; address impacts of climate change; promote clean and alternative energies; support land conservation; and create stiffer penalties to discourage oyster poaching. It also approved a biennial budget that keeps conservation-related funding mostly even with last year’s budget.

Reports: PA, VA must add to, strengthen animal agriculture programs

Pennsylvania and Virginia will likely need to beef up regulatory and voluntary programs designed to control runoff from animal farming operations if they are to meet Bay nutrient reduction goals, according to recent reports from the EPA.

The reports found the states had a variety of programs that can help control nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment runoff from the tens of thousands of farms with animals in the watershed.

In many instances, though, poor implementation, inadequate staffing and lack of funding may limit a program’s effectiveness, the reports said.

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