Bay Journal

November 2014 - Volume 24 - Number 9
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Forest buffer research reveals more benefits than previously thought

Standing amid tall trees next to White Clay Creek, listening to the forest birds sing and the water splash along rocks, roots and fallen branches, one could imagine the creek had always looked like this.

But, walking through the site one summer afternoon, Bern Sweeney pointed to a tell-tale sign that the site wasn’t as pristine as it appeared. “If you look over there,” he said, “the trees are all in rows.”

Just a bit more than three decades ago a cornfield grew right to the edge of the stream. Another section was a pasture, again to the edge of the stream.

Land subsidence leaves Chesapeake region with sinking feeling

As tourism slogans go, “Hampton Roads: Where the Land Sinks” probably won’t draw in crowds of visitors. But among scientists, that’s the reputation that this region of Virginia is building.

Man-made climate change is driving up water levels all around the world. But communities on the Chesapeake Bay, including those in the densely populated Hampton Roads area near the estuary’s mouth, have to contend with another threat that worsens the effect of rising water. Across Maryland and Virginia, the land is gradually sinking, a process that scientists call subsidence. These changes are caused by long-term geological shifts occurring across the mid-Atlantic region.

Polar ice sheets’ effects on sea level sends chills down mid-Atlantic coast

When Ron Anderson was a teen in the 1970s, he liked to watch the sun set over Benoni Point. The spit of land sat about a mile west of Oxford, MD, over the Tred Avon River. Even then, there wasn’t much to it. “It was just this little point of land with just these big pine trees and nothing else,” said Anderson, who grew up in Easton, not far from Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

Breakwater to protect Smith Island’s marshes will help people, too

Federal and state officials are spending more than $8 million to build an enormous breakwater to protect the marshes on a Smith Island wildlife refuge.

The project is unusual because of its size — 21,000 feet — and also because breakwaters most often protect people, not habitats. The Martin Wildlife Refuge is in the middle of Tangier Sound, and its human population is zero although it has plenty of crabs, fish and birds.

Volunteer monitoring can provide key data for Bay cleanup

When Valley Proteins, a chicken parts rendering plant in Dorchester County, MD, wanted to increase its permitted discharge into a tributary of Transquaking Creek, citizens concerned about the already poor water quality had several years of data to back them up. The data had been gathered by the Nanticoke Watershed Alliance’s volunteer water quality monitors.

“Even though it was just a hearing,” said Beth Ann Lynch, director of Dorchester Citizens for Planned Growth, having the data “gave a scientific basis for our concerns, as opposed to just an opinion.” Lynch said that being able to cite data specific to the creek gave more weight to their concerns — concerns that will be reviewed by state agencies evaluating the permit application.

More action sought to understand, regulate pesticides

During the 30-year effort to clean up the Chesapeake Bay, pesticides have ranked low on the list of problems.

For years, the priority has been reducing nitrogen, phosphorus and sediment from wastewater treatment plants, and runoff from farms and city streets and construction sites. But pesticides and their toxic cousins, endocrine disruptors, and the hazardous chemicals within them, remained poorly understood and not well-regulated.

Oyster aquaculture in MD, VA hit some snags in 2014

Oyster aquaculture production continues to rev up the seaside economies in Maryland and Virginia, but the need for better leasing laws and procedures coupled with a tough year for hatcheries slowed production in 2014.

Hatcheries from Maryland to North Carolina experienced water-quality problems, and scientists can’t figure out why. Unlike in 2011, when hatchery managers and scientists blamed a slog of freshwater from hurricanes for poor production, this year’s problems seem more site-specific.

EPA drops appeal in runoff case against WV poultry farmers

The EPA has dropped its appeal in the case of a West Virginia farmer who sued the agency after it required her to obtain a permit for discharges on her farm.

The case began in June 2011, when inspectors from the agency visited the Hardy County chicken farm operated by Lois and Tony Alt. The Alts grow poultry for Pilgrim’s Pride in the Potomac Highlands area of West Virginia.

PA General Assembly weakens protection for high quality streams

A controversial bill that environmental groups said would weaken protection for Pennsylvania’s cleanest streams won final approval by the state’s General Assembly on Wednesday.

The final bill was little changed from one passed a week earlier by the House that was backed by builders but strongly opposed by environmental groups.

The bill would change a regulation adopted by the Department of Environmental Protection in 2010 that requires projects disturbing more than an acre of land in state-designated high quality and exceptional value watersheds to provide a 150-foot forest buffer along streams.

Study finds Chesapeake Bay cleanup would yield economic benefits far outweighing cleanup costs

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation released a study Monday that puts a dollar value on the economic benefits derived from clean air, clean water, and healthy landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay, and calculates the value added by implementing the environmental restoration outlined in the Chesapeake Bay clean up plans.

The report, “The Economic Benefits of Cleaning up the Chesapeake,” quantifies the value of natural services delivered by the Chesapeake’s watershed in its current condition at  $107.2 billion. That value would increase 22.5 billion to a value of $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Bay cleanup plan is fully implemented, the study found.

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