Bay Journal

November 2015 - Volume 25 - Number 8
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‘Forester’s playground’ all business when it comes to silvopasture

On both sides of a narrow dirt road leading into Briery Creek Forest Farm, sunlight filtered through the branches of loblolly pines to make a patchwork of light and shadows on leafy shrubs and grasses.

What’s missing, Chris Fields-Johnson pointed out while leading the way through the property he manages, is the woody understory that would be typical for 300 acres in this corner of Fluvanna County, VA, were it not under the care of his Piedmont Earthworks.

The absence of young trees and unkempt brush is intentional. It’s the result of painstaking care and the intervention of chainsaws, herbivores and fires — an intervention that is more common on a farmed piece of land than in a forest.

Trees are building blocks of revitalization in Baltimore neighborhoods

One tree growing in Baltimore won’t make that much of a difference.

But thousands of trees will.

Block by block, in neighborhoods as diverse as the gabled row houses of Reservoir Hill to the turreted churches of East Baltimore’s Highlandtown, workers are planting redbuds and black gums, hackberries and buckeyes. They are transforming streets in a city known for its tight quarters and blighted alleys — a place more gray than green and often riddled with trash, graffiti and boarded-up vacant shells.

Grass really is ‘greener’ on other side of street in community experiment

Six years ago, Richard McKown decided to build an affordable housing community of half conventional homes and half homes with green infrastructure to see which performed better.

It would have been a radical idea in any place, but it was practically unheard of where McKown worked: Norman, OK, a place with clay soils, extreme weather and so little in the way of green infrastructure that the city officials weren’t even using that term. Everything that was not a traditional curb-and-gutter simply fell into the category of “best management practices.”

Bay Program OKs controversial nutrient reduction credits for farms

The state-federal Bay Program partnership has approved controversial recommendations to award greater nitrogen and phosphorus reduction credits for farms that have nutrient management plans, one of the most widespread nutrient control practices used on the region’s farms.

The change could help states edge closer to meeting their Bay nutrient reduction goals.

But the approval came with a big caveat — it was conditioned on states providing information about how well nutrient management plans are actually implemented. That could mean that fewer plans get counted toward Bay goals.

Traceable seafood advocates struggle with how to catch ‘fishy’ imposters

Today, we have machines that can verify the DNA of a seafood species before it reaches consumers or scan a QR code for information beyond “country of origin” at the grocery store. But, even amid these technological advancements, consumers who want to know the sources of their seafood are often left in the dark — or lied to.

In North America, one-third of the seafood that arrives at retail outlets and on restaurant plates is mislabeled, according to the advocacy group Oceana’s still-relevant 2013 study of seafood fraud.

Evidence of seafood fraud and mislabeling — and piecemeal efforts to combat it — have been mounting ever since. But what does that mean for the Chesapeake Bay’s seafood industry? While fishermen here and along U.S. coasts have the advantage of being endorsed as “local,” competing with cheaper international imitations remains a struggle. And what if the efforts to combat imposters of, say, Maryland blue crab meat result in additional layers of regulation both here, and where the impostors come from?

Cities going underground to look for nutrient reduction credits

If you are a stormwater system manager and want to find illicit, illegal and unintentional discharges of pollutants, go looking in the fall.

It’s not too cold, the vegetation has died and groundwater influences are minimal. And, there’s less rain than most times of the year. Dry weather makes it easier to find discharges like soapy wash water from an incorrectly plumbed private home or raw sewage leaking from a pipe at an industrial site or a broken pipe in the storm sewer system.

These sources can contribute as much as 40 percent of the annual load of nutrients from urban watersheds, as well as bacteria from sewage leaks or chemicals such as laundry whiteners. These pollutants are also flushed into streams and rivers during wet weather, but because they are diluted by the rain, it is difficult to detect and measure them.

Suits critical for reducing pollution in Oklahoma-Arkansas cases

Lawsuits have long been a tool of environmental advocates seeking clean water. The Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load was born in 1998 after a lawsuit was filed by two recreational groups, the American Canoe Association and the American Littoral Society. Lawsuits in the Chesapeake Bay have led to better stormwater management, more environmentally friendly farming practices and stricter interpretations of Maryland’s Critical Area law.

But what if a state attorney general filed a lawsuit over clean water and the judge didn’t rule? Where would that leave the state, waterway and cleanup plan?

Judge to hear arguments over fish passage at Conowingo Dam

People have been building dams across the Susquehanna River — originally for canals and later for hydropower — for nearly two centuries. For nearly as long, they’ve been debating the best way to get migratory fish, particularly American shad, past those dams.

Early next year, it appears likely that debate will take place in front of a judge.

Exelon Corp. has taken the unusual step of requesting a “trial-type hearing” to challenge recommendations made by federal biologists who are calling for a massive upgrade to fish passage operations at its Conowingo Dam.

MD court to hear appeals over stormwater permits for Baltimore, 4 counties

The Maryland Court of Appeals was to hear oral arguments Nov. 5 in three separate cases involving permits issued by the Maryland Department of the Environment that will govern how stormwater is handled within four of Maryland’s largest counties and Baltimore City.

At issue is whether the permits that the MDE issued were strong enough and included enough public notice and public feedback.

The permits, which are governed by the federal National Pollution Discharge Elimination System, last five years each. Maryland began issuing the permits in the mid-1990s after assessing the counties’ stormwater deficiencies. Local governments with more than 100,000 residents are required to have the Phase I permits; smaller governments need a different permit, called Phase II.

Sharp cut in Bay-specific Farm Bill funds threatens cleanup efforts

Federal funding to support agricultural conservation measures in the Bay watershed has fallen sharply since Congress approved a new Farm Bill last year, a development that has alarmed environmentalists, farm groups and state officials.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s support for Bay-specific conservation measures has declined roughly 75 percent, which has “gutted USDA’s commitment to the Chesapeake,” a coalition of conservation groups said in an Oct. 19 letter to the White House Office of Management and Budget.

“We are disappointed that the Obama administration’s implementation of this new legislation has so shortchanged the Chesapeake region,” said the letter signed by 61 members of the Choose Clean Water Coalition, which consists of regional and grassroots conservation groups in the watershed.

American eels will not be added to endangered species list

American eel numbers are low, but stable, along the East Coast and do not warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, a multiyear federal review has concluded.

Eels — once one of the most abundant fish in many freshwater streams — have suffered large population declines over the last century, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which had rejected a petition to list eels as threatened or endangered in 2007, said little had changed since that decision, and Wednesday rejected another request to list the species.

Mallows Bay a finalist for marine sanctuary designation

President Barack Obama announced today that Mallows Bay on the Potomac River has been identified by NOAA as one of two sites that may become new National Marine Sanctuaries. If awarded sanctuary status, Mallows Bay will be the first National Marine Sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and one of the first new national sanctuaries in the nation in nearly 20 years. An 875 square-mile area of Lake Michigan is also being considered for the designation.

Mallows Bay lies south of Washington, DC, along the Maryland shore of the Potomac River in Charles County. The 14 square-mile area of the river contains the remains of nearly 200 vessels that date from the Revolutionary War through the 20th century. The largest collection of World War I wooden steamships built for the U.S. Emergency Fleet are at rest in Mallows Bay, dubbed “the Ghost Fleet” and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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