Bay Journal

October 2017 - Volume 27 - Number 7
Lead story image

Restoration of PA stream to be acid test for trout

In the words of one scientist, the water of Bilger Run, about 20 miles east of Pennsylvania’s famous town of Punxsutawney, “looks like Tang.” Yes, Tang, the powdered orange drink that was available to, if not enjoyed by, U.S. astronauts of the 1960s.

“No one would think there are fish in there,” said Tom Clark, author of the Tang comparison and an acid mine drainage specialist for the Susquehanna River Basin Commission.

But there are fish in there. There are, in fact, native brook trout in there, considerably more of them than of their nemesis, the larger and somewhat hardier European brown trout.

Shenandoah Valley hot spot of solar co-ops lighting up VA

The central Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is rapidly becoming a hot spot for solar cooperatives, as new alternative energy opportunities attract a wide cross-section of homeowners eager to strike out on their own with renewable electricity.

The Mountain & Valley Solar Co-op closed itself to new members on July 19, capping out at 118 households in the western portions of Augusta and Rockingham counties.

“The Valley is the epicenter of our success,” said Aaron Sutch, program director of VA Sun, which put the Valley group together. The Richmond-based nonprofit, now rebranded as Solar United Neighbors of Virginia, offers education and technical support for budding solar co-ops across the state.

Bay Journal’s EPA grant unexpectedly canceled

The Bay Journal faces an uncertain future in the wake of an unexpected decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revoke a multi-year federal grant to the nonprofit news organization that covers environmental issues in the Chesapeake watershed.

In an Aug. 23 email from EPA’s mid-Atlantic regional office, the agency said it was canceling a six-year grant to the Bay Journal at the end of its second year, effective Feb. 1. The message cited a “shift in priorities,” with no further explanation.
Under the grant awarded in January 2016, the Bay Journal was slated to receive its next annual disbursement of $325,000 next February.

Bay Journal management is filing an appeal, asking the EPA to reverse its decision.

Rain gardens take root as revitalized community tackles polluted runoff

You can’t see the water from Miramar Landing, but it’s not far away.

The 740-home community sits off Pulaski Highway in eastern Baltimore County, an area packed with restaurants, convenience stores, shopping centers and auto-repair places. The site was once home to military-style housing for thousands of defense workers, now razed. It was once so associated with nearby Martin State Airport that its streets were named for airplane parts.

Over the last decade, though, Miramar Landing has been rebuilt by Ryland Homes as a tidy, 101-acre subdivision of single-family homes and townhouses within commuting distance of downtown Baltimore. Its main streets are named for the waterways it borders — the Middle and Bird rivers.

Poultry expansion on VA Shore draws scrutiny after Tyson plant pollution

The poultry industry’s growing footprint on Virginia’s Eastern Shore is getting new scrutiny from regulators and activists after a head-turning decision by a state regulatory body to demand harsher punishment for pollution violations at a chicken-processing plant.

The Virginia State Water Control Board, a citizen body appointed by the governor, this summer rejected state regulators’ recommended fines against a Tyson Foods facility that’s a hub for a growing number of chicken houses in Accomack County.

Scientists using costly triage to spare some ash trees from extinction

The wet woods bordering Marshyhope Creek on Maryland’s Eastern Shore exuded their usual lush green in mid-September, with only a trace of the colors that autumn would soon bring to the thick foliage. All seemed normal.

But catastrophe is on the way, in the form of a little green beetle from Asia that’s wiping out ash trees by the hundreds of millions across the United States. The voracious invaders, emerald ash borers, were spotted a couple of years ago just 20 miles away in Cambridge, so the ash trees lining this stretch of the Marshyhope are almost sure to become infested and die in the next several years.

Getting steamed over faux Maryland crabs

Nothing says Maryland quite like a steamed crab smothered in Old Bay and slapped on a long picnic table.

But sometimes, unsuspecting diners paying close to a day’s pay for the privilege of eating local bounty may actually be enjoying crabs that were trucked up Interstate 95 in a hot bushel basket — fresh from the Carolina coast or Gulf of Mexico.

Lee Carrion is trying to change that. For more than a decade, she has owned Coveside Crabs with her husband, waterman Richard Young, and has railed against businesses that purport to sell local crabs but don’t.

Big decision looms over little oily fish that feeds so many others

If you were to round up all of the menhaden swimming along the Atlantic coast and somehow put them on a scale, they’d weigh in at about 1.2 million metric tons.

To visualize that, imagine 220,000 Asian elephants stampeding along the coast — about five times more than exist in the world. For menhaden, though, that equates to tens of billions of tiny fish. This fall, fishery managers will tackle the question of whether that’s enough.

Peregrine falcons slow to return to Appalachia

Able to dive after avian prey at a shrieking 200 miles per hour, the peregrine falcon is the fastest animal on Earth. Yet the return of the peregrine to its historic habitat in the western Chesapeake region has been anything but speedy.

After their numbers were decimated in the mid-20th century by DDT pesticide poisoning, peregrines have made a strong comeback in Eastern urban areas but rarely grace the mountains and valleys of central Appalachia that were once a stronghold for the species.

Herring, shad get head start before Bloede Dam removal

Bulldozers, excavators and construction workers are bulling their way into Patapsco Valley State Park near Baltimore this fall. They’re the advance guard for a task force charged with removing a dormant hydroelectric dam on the Patapsco River and reopening a big stretch of the river to spawning runs of migratory fish.

If the project stays on schedule, Bloede Dam should be gone by the spring of 2019. And, biologists shouldn’t have long to wait to see some action. Sampling surveys conducted in the Patapsco River below the dam have collected hundreds of alewife and blueback herring returning each spring as well as a similar number of juveniles later in the year — an indication of successful spawning.

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