Bay Journal

March 2017 - Volume 27 - Number 1
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Oyster wars: Volunteers, watermen, vie over sanctuaries

The shoreline by St. Mary’s College in Southern Maryland is lined with riprap, not unlike developed waterfront elsewhere around the Chesapeake Bay. But closer inspection reveals something striking: A cornucopia of oysters, large and small, fill the crevices between the rocks.

Not far offshore, many more oysters can be seen just below the surface of the clear water, festooning reefs made out of concrete and construction rubble.

“The oysters are thick as can be,” enthused Bob Lewis, executive director of the St. Mary’s River Watershed Association.

The upper St. Mary’s River is an oyster sanctuary. Off limits to harvest pressure, this 1,300-acre area is brimming with bivalves.

Sea change: Warehouse to be transformed into food emporium

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Maryland Wholesale Seafood Market is in line for a major facelift.

It’s an expensive one, too. The planned $40 million project will add 104,000 square feet of space to the Jessup facility and change its purpose from a busy-at-dawn seafood warehouse to a food emporium for its growing base of retail customers.

To be renamed the Maryland Market Center, it will feature a large farmer’s market with local produce, creamery, microbrewery and a commercial kitchen space for small vendors to cook and can products. It will also have sit-down restaurants.

Related News:

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

Sustainable seafood festival seeks ways to keep fisheries healthy

Seafood warehouse zeroing in on eliminating all of its waste

Biweekly seafood shares offer some of Bay’s best

Fish, seafood distributors tipping the scales in favor of safety

J. J. McDonnell & Co., Inc. processes thousands of pounds of fish a day: lobster trucked to its Howard County headquarters from Maine, crabs plucked from Tangier Sound, farmed oysters from Southern Maryland and tuna flown in from Africa. They’re different species, but their requirements are the same — constant, consistent cold. Under 50 degrees for live fish, under 40 degrees for dead ones.

With uncertainty about new regulations and increases in the reported cases of food-borne illnesses, wholesale fish distributors are taking their need for refrigeration to a whole new level — and place. Some, like McDonnell, have moved out of the wholesale city markets that used to be gathering places for early-morning fish delivery and banter. Others are going out of business, selling out to competitors, or merging to share space and expenses.

Related News:

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

Sustainable seafood festival seeks ways to keep fisheries healthy

Seafood warehouse zeroing in on eliminating all of its waste

National seafood policy aims for more transparency in labeling

Biweekly seafood shares offer some of Bay’s best

SAV Olympics: Foreign embassies seek laurels for growing grasses for Bay

Blair Blanchette was halfway through her demonstration on growing underwater grasses indoors when she stopped midsentence, assessing her audience.

“I’m getting faces from everyone that say, ‘This isn’t gonna work,’” said Blanchette, the Virginia grass-roots coordinator for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. “But we’ve had 2,500 participants in this program, and they’ve all grown grasses.”

She didn’t dwell on the fact that most of those participants over the program’s 17-year history have been school-age children who are used to such science projects — not diplomats representing their countries at embassies in Washington, DC. But, an organizer from the U.S. State Department was quick to point out, there will be prizes for the embassies that grow the tallest and densest grasses come June.

Sonar revealing more river herring in Choptank than expected

Scientists have a powerful new tool to help them “see” fish in the Chesapeake Bay’s murky tributaries, and it’s yielding some surprisingly good news about two of the estuary’s most troubled species.

“Imaging sonar” uses sound to help them view, and count, passing fish in dark or cloudy water. For the past few years, scientists with the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center have been deploying one of these underwater sound cameras in some of the Bay’s rivers to monitor spawning runs of alewife and blueback herring, collectively known as river herring.

Related News:

Sonar gives scientists clearer picture of river herring runs

Scientists suspect decline of herring is result of bycatch in other fisheries

River herring making a comeback in Patapsco River

New review confirms eels, river herring depleted on East Coast

For Bay’s herring species, there’s no place like home for spawning

Chesapeake spring once marked by bountiful herring

Hampton Roads treating wastewater till it’s good enough to return to aquifer

Little more than a day before, the water pouring from a tap outside the York River Treatment Plant had been wastewater: a mix of sewage flushed down toilets, soapy water drained from bathtubs, food wastes washed down the sink and industrial waste piped into sewer lines.

Now, the water coming out the silver spigot was crystal clear, filling a clean glass that said “SWIFT” on its side.

And it tasted like, well, water.

Despite its checkered past, the water was good enough to drink —maybe too good, according to officials from the Hampton Roads Sanitation District, which operates the York River plant and a dozen others in southeastern Virginia. Instead of just treating wastewater and discharging it into the river as they’ve done for decades, district officials say they’ve now produced a valuable resource that can solve multiple problems facing the region.

Related News:

York, PA, will turn phosphorus in its wastewater into fertilizer

Wastewater treatment plants meet Bay goals 10 years early

Shenandoah treatment plant to use wastewater for irrigation

Fairfax County’s ‘purple pipes’ help reduce nutrients, water demand on Potomac

Black rail population sinking fast as rising sea level drowns its habitat

Getting to know the Eastern black rail has always been tough.

The sparrow-size bird lives deep in marshes that are hard to access, and it is most active in the wee hours of the morning. Even then, it tends to scamper through dense vegetation, rather than fly — some call it a “feathered mouse.”
“We know almost nothing about this species,” said ornithologist Bryan Watts, director of the Center for Conservation Biology in Virginia. “It’s very tiny and incredibly secretive. Even most bird watchers have never seen this species before.”

Now, even hearing their call is unlikely. Its habitat, a delicately balanced zone deep within coastal marshes, is being flooded by the rising waters. And the Eastern black rail is disappearing fast — potentially becoming the first victim of sea level rise around the Chesapeake Bay and other areas of the East Coast.

Related News:

Secretive black rail is rapidly being squeezed out of existence

Chesapeake shows signs of recovery after years of cleanup efforts

The Chesapeake Bay is showing signs that decades of work are starting to pump new life into the nation’s largest estuary, according to a new report, though it also showed worrisome trends for forest buffers and wetlands — two elements considered critical to any long-term recovery.

The Bay Barometer, released Feb. 1 by the state-federal Bay Program partnership, largely echoed the positive movement shown in recent report cards from the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, suggesting that cleanup efforts were starting to pay off with expanded underwater grass beds, clearer water and a smaller oxygen-starved “dead zone.”

Related News:

Latest ‘Bay Barometer’ shows uneven restoration progress

Experience Alexandria’s maritime past

The developers of a luxurious waterfront hotel in Alexandria, VA, put construction on hold for several months last year after their shovels struck the wooden hull of a ship. The city’s team of archaeologists sprang into action, unearthing part of a 50-foot vessel scuttled into place around 200 years ago that contained a special kind of treasure: a piece of Alexandria’s maritime past.

Related News:

Museums, trails, river lure visitors to Port Royal, VA

Maritime museum celebrates 3 centuries of Bay’s influence on Annapolis

London Town being reconstructed from the grounds up

Its fast ships may be gone, but Fells Point hasn’t slowed down one bit

‘It’s not what you find, it’s what you find out’ at archaeology park

Project Clean Stream engages businesses, makes a splash locally

Project Clean Stream began in Baltimore County in 2002 and has grown from a small community event to a watershedwide effort in all six Bay states and the District of Columbia. Deeply rooted in the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay’s mission, Project Clean Stream is a signature Alliance program. The Alliance coordinates local site cleanups, trains site captains and provides cleanup supplies such as trash bags and gloves. It also arranges trash removal after the cleanup is finished.

Related News:

Project Clean Stream’s impact ripples through a waterway’s community

Project Clean Stream strengthens ties between volunteers, waterways

Project Clean Stream set for April 2 at more than 165 sites in watershed

Project Clean Stream gathers 80 tons of trash in Maryland

Project Clean Stream builds environmental stewardship

Project Clean Stream an opportunity to heal, engage, connect

VA lawmakers short of cash, pass ‘building blocks’ for Bay

Despite a steep budget shortfall, Virginia lawmakers managed to pass several pieces of legislation advocates say will benefit the Chesapeake Bay in a session that wrapped up this past weekend.

The General Assembly faced a revenue gap of nearly $800 million over the next two years when it convened early this year, and Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s budget proposal included a fraction of the funding some Bay-related programs have seen in the past.

Though the governor’s budget set aside $10 million to defray the cost of pollution-preventing best management practices on farms — down from the previous appropriation of more than $60 million — the final budget squeezed out a bit more for the agricultural cost-share program at $17 million. That won’t cover the current backlog of on-farm projects that are awaiting funding, but it does come closer, advocates say.

Irish firm tackles burning issue of Maryland’s poultry waste

The first thing a visitor notices when stepping inside two of Brad Murphy's chicken houses is the smell. Usually, the acrid reek of ammonia assaults the senses upon stepping into a 40,000-bird house. But in these two, there’s barely a whiff.

That’s because Murphy’s farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, called Double Trouble, is part of the state’s big experiment in converting animal manure to energy. An Irish firm, BHSL, has put in a $3 million system that burns the poultry waste to heat the houses.

The system curtails the ammonia fumes that not only make poultry houses stink, but compromise the birds’ health. It also can give farmers a financial boost — they can avoid paying for propane to heat the houses, and even make a little income from selling excess energy generated by the system that’s fed into the electric grid.

Related News:

Water quality monitoring shows some long-term improvements fading away

The first rule of the Phosphorus Symposium: No one talks about the PMT.

Study: MD phosphorus rule could cost $22–$52 million to implement

Poultry mega-houses forcing Somerset County residents to flee

Potentially polluting phosphorus levels in 18 percent of Maryland farm fields, state says

Phosphorus management tool: the right thing to do – right now

MD manure-to-energy plant appears to be going nowhere

Irish company wins MD contract to turn chicken litter into energy

Energy Works in PA turning waste into watts

Agricultural pollution is the price we pay for cheaper food

Perdue turns to composting to get more poultry waste off farm fields

Perdue Farms, one of the nation’s leading poultry producers, is adding a new product to its increasingly varied lineup: compost.

Through its AgriBusiness offshoot, the family-owned corporation based in Salisbury, MD, has begun converting organic wastes from its chicken processing plants and hatchery into fertilizer at a $12 million plant recently finished in neighboring Delaware.

Company officials say the new 15-acre facility, called AgriSoil, is expected before long to begin handling poultry litter – a mix of manure and wood shavings. That could offer Perdue’s many contract growers on the Delmarva Peninsula a new option for dealing with tightening regulatory restrictions on the traditional practice of spreading the manure from chicken houses on crop fields. 

Related News:

Water groups sue Perdue, farm over failure to properly store waste

Study warns of pitfalls to poultry waste as fertilizer substitute

Potentially polluting phosphorus levels in 18 percent of Maryland farm fields, state says

New zoning restrictions address issues from larger chicken houses

Enacting rules for poultry litter has been as easy as pulling hen’s teeth

A Maryland chicken farmer goes organic

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